Diatribe: Cigarette Flickers + Drought = Forest Fires?
Like most children, I was always fascinated with fire. Campfires were the best fires because there was usually food nearby. Once, in a particularly brilliant moment of childhood stupidity, I chose to march around a campfire with a blazing marshmallow at the end of a stick, hoisted high above me like a drum major, when the flaming ball of sugar proceeded to fall from the stick, roll down my shoulder and burn my tender little arm. It was an awful experience. If a campfire can cause so much pain, it’s difficult for me to imagine how much distress a forest fire can produce.
I cannot understand the mentality of a motorist who insists on flicking a burning cigarette out of his or her car window during extremely dry weather. In the last few days I’ve counted six different people who have thrown a lit cigarette onto the road, during drought conditions, apparently without realizing exactly what they were doing. When I see the ashes bounce and blow to the side of the road (much more dramatic after dark), into the dry grass along the median, I can’t help but wonder if I’ll be hearing about a fire on the local news.
There are burnt patches of grass along the sides of many interstates and I’ll wager they’re not caused by campfires. Of course, smokers should be allowed to crystallize their lungs as much as they desire, slowly killing themselves with each successive puff. That’s a choice that they make again and again. Since my days as a smoker, I realize that it’s become increasingly difficult for those who use cigarettes to do so without being herded away from the general population as if they have a contagious disease. One of the few places that they have left to enjoy their filthy habit is in their cars. And still, some of them insist on throwing burning butts on the highway … presumably to keep their car’s ashtray (if it even has one) from filling up and smelling.
Not since my encounter with a smoking buffoon at a gas pump have I witnessed so many possible fires. I assume that these people are simply not thinking about what it is that they’re doing when they flick a burning cigarette into a pile of dry grass along the side of the road. Perhaps they’re distracted or perhaps they just don’t care. Perhaps too many people don’t equate the red ember at the end of their cigarette with the flames of a fire. Mostly, I figure, they assume that they won’t get caught.
During times of drought, the forests are basically giant piles of kindling. Smokers should be reminded that one of their embers, flicked carelessly from their window as they drive along, could start a fire with results much more devastating than a flaming marshmallow rolling down a little one’s arm.
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