Decrease Fire Hazards with Smokefree Multi-Unit Housing Policies

We talk a lot about the health benefits of smokefree multi-unit housing policies, but there are safety benefits as well. Last week, tossed cigarette butts triggered a Santa Rosa apartment complex fire resulting in approximately $200,000 in damages, leaving 58 residents without a place to stay. Tenants from one of the units had left their cigarette butts in a container, which later caught on fire during the night. Next to that container was a gallon of gasoline which ignited due to the fire created by the cigarette butts.

These fires are proving to be a common occurrence. In June, a cigarette caused a fire in a Castroville apartment complex, displacing 40 residents. In that same month, a discarded cigarette caused a Dinuba apartment complex fire, displacing 70 residents. In July, a cigarette butt caused a fire in a Campbell fourplex, displacing a few residents. These fires, caused by cigarettes, have all happened in just the past three months in California. A common factor in these communities, including Santa Rosa, is that none of them have smokefree multi-unit housing policies. Although fire safety isn’t immediately thought of when implementing such policies, it is something that has definitely aided in the passage of these policies in many different communities.

Strong smokefree multi-unit housing policies prohibit smoking within a certain percentage of units, if not all units, and on patios and balconies. Not only does this prevent unwanted secondhand smoke from drifting through walls and entryways into other units, but also creates less of a fire hazard. The fires previously listed were all caused by discarded cigarettes on patios and balconies. Most communities with strong smokefree multi-unit housing policies allow designated smoking areas in a safe location where secondhand smoke cannot reach other units. If a fire were to occur in these designated smoking areas, the fire would be a distance away from units and have a higher chance of being contained before reaching units than fires starting on patios and balconies. Landlords and managers will also benefit from these policies by gaining more protections for their both their properties and their tenants. These fires are preventable and implementing smokefree multi-unit housing policies will serve as a helpful tool while also decreasing the threat of secondhand smoke at the same time.

For more information on smokefree multi-unit housing, resources produced by the Center can be found here.

-Stacy Song



  1. Serena Chen
    Posted Aug 27, 2013 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Great blog, Stacy. I will share with landlords and city officials.

  2. Posted Aug 27, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for getting this information out, Serena!

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