Warning to butt chuckers, don't toss smokes
Jack Knox Times Colonist Thursday, June 24, 2004
Here's who gets my vote: The first candidate to advocate capital punishment for the knobs who flick cigarette butts out car windows.
Ooh, nothing burns me -- not to mention the trees -- like the sight of a glowing Export A arcing through the darkness into the drier-than-dust brush on the side of the highway.
After last summer's wildfires, butt-chucking may become the new drunk driving, an offence once treated as borderline tolerable, but now seen as reckless as tailgating Mike Tyson. With memories of Kelowna fresh in our memory, there is little patience for those who would rather firebomb the forest than fill an ashtray.
Two per cent of all B.C. forest fires, about 50 a year, are smoking-related, as are some of the 11 per cent for which the cause is unknown. Sometimes the damage is relatively minor -- remember last summer when all those grass fires scorched the highway medians west of Victoria? Sometimes the cost would make even Adrienne Clarkson shudder -- last year's $31-million McLure/Barriere fire began when a homeowner thought, wrongly, that he had put out his cigarette by grinding it underfoot. Grinding isn't good enough, says Erwin MacDermid, B.C.'s superintendent of fire prevention and detection. "When it's 40 degrees and the relative humidity is less than 10 per cent, they don't always go out."
The authorities aren't the only ones concerned about carelessness. Last week, a sign went up beside the cash register at the 17 Mile Liquor Shoppe on the road to Sooke: "Due to current temperatures, to protect the local forest, we will not be providing matches to anybody."
Some smokers grumble when they see the sign, but most customers like the idea, says manager Brian Castle. The natural environment is what inspires tourists and campers to trundle out to the Sooke area, and nobody wants to see it burn down. "Matches are almost as bad as cigarette butts."
The B.C. government has a new process for reporting people who toss their smokes in wooded areas. Witnesses who note the time, date, location, licence plate and vehicle description can call the wildfire hot line at 1-800-663-5555 -- or *5555 by cell phone -- to relay what they saw. The offender will then be dragged bodily from his car and beaten like Rodney King.
Well, not really, but the motorist might get a finger-wagging lecture or nasty letter. The offence is hard to prove, though MacDermid knows of one case where a conservation officer wrote a $173 ticket for the offence of dropping a burning substance.
You could also, in theory, be fined $1 million and do three years in jail for causing a fire on Crown land (but then you could also, in theory, date Halle Berry or Brad Pitt). The province says environmental offences commonly result in fines of thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, though we're not talking about sailing cigarettes here.
More likely for your garden variety butt-chucker is a ticket issued by the police. Penalties range from $58 to $345, depending on the offence. The RCMP did follow up on complaints phoned in during last year's forest fire season, said RCMP Cpl. Catherine Galliford, though she didn't have any statistics at hand. "There are fines in place and they are going to be actively enforced by the police," she said.
The penalties are stiffer south of the border. Washington state can fine motorists $1,025 US plus court costs. In fire-ravaged California, the cigarette-tossing penalty ranges from $360 for first-timers to $3,400 for repeat offenders, though one legislator wants to increase it to $20,400 for anyone cited three or more times.
Maybe we'll head that way, too, if California-like conditions continue in B.C. Our forecast is for a summer that is drier and hotter than normal. There were 223 fires burning this week, twice as many as this time last year. Scary.
Which leaves me thinking this: If you see a butt fly out a car window, pray it's just somebody hanging a moon.
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Thread: Butt Chuckers Beware!
06-24-2004, 04:01 PM #1
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Butt Chuckers Beware!If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)
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06-24-2004, 05:35 PM #2
LOL At first I read the headline to say "Butt Checkers Beware"
I thought "No one better be infringing upon my right to glance at some booty!"
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