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Carelessly discarded cigarettes spell fire danger

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Peterson Air Force Base is a beautiful place to live, work and play, but what most people do not realize is that it is located in a high desert plain, and despite annual snowfalls and late afternoon storms, it is a dry climate.

A dry and windy spring has aggravated the dry conditions and led to a high fire danger across the Front Range, with periodic burn bans and restrictions. A recent article addressed guidelines for burn restrictions, but failed to address the dangers of smoking.

Unfortunately, the base recently experienced a mulch fire at the entrance of one of our mission buildings started by a carelessly discarded cigarette near the entrance to the facility.

Although much attention focuses on the known health risks of smoking, cigarette use is also responsible for several fires each year here on Peterson. Many of these fires have been in the decorative mulch surrounding the buildings. The temperature of a cigarette while not being smoked is 1,112 degrees Fahrenheit in the center and 752 degrees Fahrenheit on the sides of the cigarette, easily hot enough to ignite mulch and other combustible materials. Peterson AFB is essentially a non-smoking base, with smoking permitted in designated areas only. Each facility is allowed only one "smoking area," designated by the commander of that facility in conjunction with the Fire Emergency Services Fire Prevention Office.

Here are some guidelines from 21SWI 32-2001, Fire Emergency Services and AFOSH STD 91-501, Air Force Consolidated Occupational Safety Standard:

· Smoking is not allowed inside any Air Force buildings.

· Each facility may have a single outside designated smoking area and will provide approved smoking urns by each. Trash receptacles shall also be provided to preclude combining trash and discarded smoking materials.

· The disposal of smoking material in any container, other than approved containers specifically designed for smoking material, is strictly prohibited.

· The disposal of waste, trash, or any combustible material into ashtrays or smoking material cans is prohibited.

· Provide ash receptacles or smoking material cans at the entrance to all NO SMOKING areas.

· Saturate and completely extinguish smoking material prior to disposal into outside waste dumpsters.

During Stage I Fire Restrictions, El Paso County even goes as far as to prohibit outdoor smoking except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials. Violation of this may result in fines up to $600. As you can see, common sense and good judgment go a long way. Any questions regarding smoking on base can be directed to the 21st FES Fire Prevention Office at 556-6574 or 556-4242.

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