Letters to the Editor

Discarding cigarettes could put lives at risk

A photo of the Detwiler Fire by photographer Darin McKinney.
A photo of the Detwiler Fire by photographer Darin McKinney. Fireline Media

I write this as the catastrophic risks of the Detwiler Fire are still unknown. With that said, I must say that I was troubled by what my son saw as he was returning home from work this past Monday, one day after the fire had substantially grown to more than 7,000 acres.

He was heading north on Highway 41 near Suburban Propane when he saw the driver of a southbound car flick out a cigarette butt on the highway. With the temperature around 105 degrees and the fire hazard conditions extreme, he and I thought that it was ridiculous that people would be so careless as to potentially risk starting a second fire when the first one has already drawn just about all of the resources from the area.

If he had been following the vehicle he would have been able to get a license plate number or the make or model of the car. Unfortunately, as it is, he hopes that the other cars that were following the careless driver made note of it and passed it on to CHP.

This is not an attack on smokers, but with the extreme fire risks we all face, I would just implore drivers who smoke to be mindful of the fact that carelessly discarding your cigarette not only litters, but may potentially put the lives and properties of others at risk.

If you see someone flick a cigarette out of their window I would ask that you call that to the attention of CHP or the sheriff’s office, so that the person might realize just how dangerous their actions are for the community, especially at this time.

Maybe steps could be taken to greatly reduce the incidence of such occurrences.

Now, I am not one to believe that creating new laws for every contingency represents a panacea for all societal ills. Nevertheless, I was thinking that if the state legislature, through a bill or citizens through an initiative, passed a law requiring that cigarette cartons sold in California be bundled with a free portable stainless steel ashtray (which would be included in the price), then it would leave drivers and passengers who smoke without any excuse for carelessly discarding their cigarettes from a moving vehicle.

These ashtrays can be bought for as little as $10, even cheaper if bought in quantity. The reason I argue for such a law is that a lot of newer cars do not come equipped with ashtrays and not every smoker may see the benefit of having one for their car, assuming they smoke in their car.

Consequently, to enforce this new driving paradigm, the ordinances and laws governing discarding cigarettes from a vehicle would need to be strengthened such that the fine is raised substantially from simply littering to a misdemeanor violation.

With the enormous dangers of fire because of the tree mortality from the recent drought, the people of this state need to do all that we can to reduce the incidence of such fires.

Perhaps other states will seek to emulate such a requirement to reduce the risk of out of control fires in their states.

Barbara Booth, Oakhurst