An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

HomeNewsArticle Display

Where there's smoke

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Picture this:  It's a beautiful Saturday morning.  You get out of bed, eat breakfast and decide to jump on the internet to check the weather before you head out for the day.  You notice a weather advisory, but glance past it to get to the daily high and see if it's going to rain or if the wind will pick up.  Who needs to read that silly advisory?  Besides, it looks like it is going to be sunny and nice out for the weekend! Finally.

What you don't know is that advisory was for high winds and a high fire danger advisory for the next few days.  That warm and breezy weather also means conditions are ripe for a wildland fire.  Those of you who have been in Colorado Springs a few years have surely heard about the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires.  Hundreds of homes, gone.  People's belonging, photo albums, kid's toys and family keepsakes, burned to ash.  Those fires didn't start when it was rainy and cold.

Back to the story:  You get to work and walk from the parking lot to the building.  You notice a few people in the designated tobacco area smoking and talking about their weekend plans.  One person in the group throws their soda bottle into the cigarette butt can.  I mean, it looks just like a garbage can, what harm is there in that?  It's better than littering, right?

You walk inside and start logging on to your computer.  Time to check that email and get this day started.  After about an hour, you suddenly hear a strange noise, and there are lights flashing everywhere.  You think for a brief second, "Have I won the lottery?" But then reality sets in.  It's another annoying fire alarm.  It seems like these things are going off all the time, and those firefighters never seem to find anything wrong.  You roll your eyes and follow the herd outside.

You walk through the exit door and notice something strange; there is smoke in the air!  What in the world is going on?  You notice it is particularly thick around the side of the building where the DTA is, where you saw a few folks chatting earlier.  That soda bottle that was thrown in the butt can?  It caught fire, and that fire started to spread onto the dry grass a few yards away.  This looks bad, you think; the winds are pushing the fire along and gaining momentum with all the dry grass and trees around.  Your heart rate picks up and you start to think back to those devastating wildland fires that a lot of people talked about.  Your eyes grow wide as you see the fire pick up more and more ferocity from the breeze. This looks really bad.

Thankfully, this isn't a real scenario.  The events described above are fictitious.  It hasn't happened, at least not yet.  But it is a very real possibility.  Throwing that soda bottle into a butt can and the bottle catching fire are some things that can lead to devastating effects, regardless of how innocent or simple those acts may have been.  Fire is one tragedy that we want to try to avoid at all costs.

What is the moral of the story?  The proper use of a smoking material container, also known as butt cans, has become a concerning topic lately. There is an Air Force Instruction that governs what can be thrown into these cans.  AFI 91-203 states, "Disposal of waste, trash or any combustible material in ash trays or smoking material cans is prohibited."  Why is this important?  Placing trash or other materials into an ashtray or smoking material can places something that burns (regular garbage or trash) in the vicinity of something that is currently burning (a cigarette butt).  Think of it as like throwing a match into a pile of leaves.  It's not something that people would do consciously if they knew the potential damage it could cause. 

Whether you smoke or not, only place cigarette or tobacco smoking materials in those cans.  No trash, no garbage, nothing else except for what the can was intended for.  And empty the cans on a regular basis, so they don't overflow and become a hazard in itself.  These simple acts can and will help protect us all.
Previous Story
Next Story