Smoking led to 2 recent apartment fires in Green Bay, firefighters determine

Fire near the intersection of S Fisk and Shawano Ave, July 12, 2018. (WLUK)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WLUK) -- It's been a busy month for Green Bay Metro firefighters.

They say two of the recent apartment fires were caused by the same thing: people using cigarettes carelessly.

The department responded to multiple apartment fires this month. The most recent a building off Ninth Street. It went up in flames last Friday.

"It pretty much, went pretty fast. It went to the first floor outside the building up," said Tigerwolf Perez, who lives at the building.

The cause of that fire is still being determined.

But firefighters say the apartment fire off Fisk Street last Thursday, and off Walnut Street in early July, were both caused by lit cigarettes.

"We looked out the window, and there were just flames coming out the roof of the house," said Daisy Bohm.

Bohm was home when the Walnut Street building caught fire next door.

"They put us in a hotel for the night," she said. "Just to make sure the property was safe to come back to."

No one was injured or killed in either of those fires. But the department is sending a message to smokers.

"Neither ashtrays were used for either of the last two mayor fires that we've had," said Shauna Wachholz of Green Bay Metro Fire. "We are just trying to to tell people have an ashtray, try not to smoke indoors, or on a deck. Be smart about it."

For those who choose to smoke or host smokers, the fire department shares these tips:

  • Use large, deep, non-tip ashtrays. Never leave a lit cigarette in an ashtray and never leave an ashtray on the arm of a couch or a chair.
  • Avoid smoking inside and on decks.
  • Douse cigarette butts completely with water before discarding them.
  • Never smoke in bed or while lying down; especially when you are drowsy or are taking medications that can make you sleepy.
  • Never permit smoking around the storage or use of an oxygen tank.
  • Keep matches, lighters and other smoking materials away from children. Teach children that lighters and matches are not toys, and not to touch them.
  • If smokers have visited, be sure to check the floor and around chair cushions for ashes that may have dropped accidentally.
  • Treat “fire-safe cigarettes” the same as a normal cigarette because they are still capable of starting a fire.
  • It is important to have an escape plan and several working smoke alarms in the unfortunate event that fire does break out in your home.

Smoking responsibly is something both residents and firefighters say can prevent the fire like this from happening.

"My husband always puts it in water first to put it out," Bohm told FOX 11.

"Put your cigarettes out, because there is lives that could be in danger," said Wachholz.

Officials say the Walnut Street forced seven people from their homes and caused an estimated $125,000 in damage.

The Fisk St. forced more than 30 people from their homes and caused more than $500,000 in damage.

The Green Bay Metro Fire Dept. says smoking is the number one cause of preventable home fire deaths in the U.S. Firefighters say discarded cigarettes or other smoking materials often smolder for hours before the first flames appear. Smoldering cigarette butts can start mattresses, bedding, upholstered furniture, garbage and other items on fire.

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