Cigarette-related fires cost millions in damages every year
Six families are displaced after part of the Mountain Creek Apartment complex goes up in flames. Investigators believe an improperly discarded cigarette is to blame for the blaze.
"This is the second major apartment building fire we've had within several months," says Bruce Garner with the Chattanooga Fire Department.
Just three months ago a massive fire engulfed the Carriage Parc apartments off Gunbarrel Road, with around 75 people losing everything. The cause was a burning cigarette left in a flower pot.
"Take it seriously, because cigarette butts cause lots of fires," says Garner.
Though not as severe, the same thing destroyed two units at Mountain Creek Apartments Tuesday. Investigators say a cigarette caught a bottom unit deck on fire. Firefighters saved 18 other units and saved a cat with a special oxygen mask for pets.
"It's pretty intense, losing everything with an infant and everything like that. It's pretty hard," says Joshua Brown.
Brown says he is just thankful his fiance and two week old baby were able to escape, unharmed.
"She smelt some smoke. She says she looked outside and saw a little bit of flame and ran outside and said within minutes it engulfed. It took over the entire left side of the building," says Brown.
Overall, damages are estimated at more than $200,000.
"I think a lot of people really underestimate just the danger of cigarette butts. They just don't really think about it. They're casual about it. And they think they've got it out, then they move on because they're thinking about something else," says Garner.
The latest data from the National Fire Protection Association shows cigarette-related fires killed 540 people in 2011 in the U.S., injured 1,600 others and damaged $621 million in property. Garner says your best bet is using a deep, ceramic ashtray and douse your discarded cigarette butts in water.
"If you have a number of cigarette butts and then you keep putting other ones in there and some are partially, still lit up, you're going to end up having a fire. Which can be devastating for a lot of people."
Management at the complex says they are working to put displaced residents in other open units or sister-properties. The Red Cross is helping as well. They also say a truck will be set up outside the complex office to collect items for the families that lost everything.