Opinion

Don’t be an ash! Keep San Juan roadways free of cigarette butts

Steve Marler
and Vern Long

You’ve probably heard of the Washington State Department of Ecology’s “Litter and It Will Hurt” campaign. It’s a clever slogan. But, when it comes to one particular type of litter here in San Juan County, perhaps the slogan should be “Don’t Be An Ash!”.

San Juan County is blessed with scenic roadways and trails. While we all enjoy this natural beauty, we also all share in the responsibility to protect and preserve the trees and plants that make our islands so special.

During the dry season, a carelessly tossed cigarette has the potential to start a catastrophic fire. According to the State Fire Marshal, there were 39 fires in this region in 2007 where “smoking materials” was listed as the cause.

Many newer automobiles are not equipped with ash trays. So what’s a driver who smokes supposed to do? The answer is clearly NOT to throw cigarette butts out the window. That’s dangerous, creates unsightly litter, is illegal and is just plain rude. If you smoke and your car has an ash tray, use it. If your car doesn’t have an ash tray, get one from the local auto parts store.

Remember, once that ashtray is full, it must be emptied into a metal trash container, just in case there’s still a hot ember waiting. Dumping your ashtray onto the side of the road is just as bad as not using an ashtray at all.

A little caution and common sense will help us all enjoy our islands by lessening the risk of a fire and reducing the amount of unsightly litter. Please, Don’t Be An Ash.

Steve Marler, Fire Chief, San Juan Island Fire Department, and Vern Long, Fire Chief, Friday Harbor Fire Department

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