Bilinga Fire Station acting officer Matt Baxton wants drivers disposing of cigarettes in their ash trays – not walkways or median strips.
Bilinga Fire Station acting officer Matt Baxton wants drivers disposing of cigarettes in their ash trays – not walkways or median strips. Colin Gilmore

No butts for firefighters

THERE'S no butts about the Bilinga Fire Station's opinion on cigarettes flicked from car windows.

"It can be a problem for our personal safety," acting station officer Matt Baxton said.

Acting assistant commissioner South Eastern Region John Gresty said cigarette butt fires endangered fire crews through the combination of reduced visibility, vehicles travelling at high speed and volumes of traffic.

"There is also the danger of reduced visibility," Mr Gresty said.

"Lit cigarette butts can smoulder amongst the mulch and scrub on median strips and highway shoulders, giving off a lot of smoke, which can be very dangerous for highway traffic."

Mr Baxton said the complications arising from such simple and small fires held the potential for disaster.

"Our access is often something that's really poor.

"We can see the fire burning, but we can't get to it because, though barriers are important, if the fire is 150 metres into the bush and there's no gates or trails, access is a problem.

"We want people to be respectful and put their cigarettes out in their car's ash tray - not out the car window," he said.

Mr Gresty said such roadside fires also attracted multiple triple-zero emergency calls "which can place unnecessary strain on already-busy operators".

"We don't want to discourage people from calling triple zero (000) to report fires-what we do want is for smokers to be responsible and put their cigarettes out in the car ashtray, not out the window.

"These types of fires are started by careless individuals.

"And although the fires are usually small in size, they can be dangerous for a number of reasons, particularly to motorists and surrounding properties."

He said firefighters attended hundreds of preventable median strip and roadside fires resulting from flicked butts each year.

One of the Bilinga station's firefighters suggested going further - "let's not even smoke," he said.

Mr Baxton said the fire alert level had been at three for the past few days - stepping up firefighters' readiness levels - but call-outs had been mostly to traffic accidents.


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