Yesterday, our mulch caught on fire.

I know, I know, that sounds like it’s not that big of a deal, but it was, and here is why.

What started as a relatively small fire turned into a fire that “hopped” from one mulch section to another around our building. The weather yesterday was described as “the perfect brush-fire conditions,” and they were not lying.

As our team members came together to try to put out the fire with various buckets, watering cans, and pitchers lying around the office, we quickly realized this fire was out of our league.

The fire and smoke escalated quickly and our local fire department came to save the day.

The culprit of this mulch fire? A cigarette butt.

As insurance and risk management advisers, we would not be doing our job if we didn’t take this opportunity to discuss the importance of proper cigarette disposal.

All it took was one cigarette, don’t let it be yours.

Here are some tips:

• The best place to discard cigarettes is in a non-combustible container, such as a metal coffee can, filled with water or sand.
• Please do not dispose of cigarettes in planters or landscaped areas.
• Do not discard cigarettes out of your car window.
• Never toss hot cigarette butts or ashes in the trash.
• Make sure all cigarette butts and ashes are completely out before disposal.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 90,000 smoking-material fires in the U.S in 2011. These fires resulted in an estimated 540 civilian deaths, 1,640 civilian injuries and $621 million in direct property damage. Although they do not have a more recent study, these statistics could have been prevented with more caution and less carelessness.

In light of the events that took place yesterday, no team members were harmed and we enjoyed many shared “fire” stories over beer and pizza…in other news, our bushes and freshly-placed mulch have a different story to tell.