Troopers target drivers tossing cigarette butts after 50% increase in brush fires

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SEATTLE — Cigarette butts tossed out of car windows are setting off roadside brush fires in the state and law enforcement is hoping to stop the dangerous trend.

The Washington State Department of Transportation says in the past four months there have been 50% more roadside brush fires in Western Washington compared with the same time last year.

Starting Tuesday, Washington State Patrol troopers were making it a priority to catch drivers tossing cigarette butts out their windows. All it takes is one cigarette butt to spark an inferno.

“We see them (cigarette butts) in the median, we see them on the side of the road,” Sgt. Paul Cagle said.

Anywhere there is dry brush, there is the potential for a fire.

“You can see how crunchy it as you walk through the grass,” Cagle said.

And when you get closer you can see countless cigarettes littering the highway.

Troopers say drivers are using I-5 and other highways like an ashtray.

Most people are not aware it`s an infraction, but it is, and it`s expensive.
If a state trooper sees you flicking a cigarette butt out the window, it is a $1,025 fine.

“It’s pretty much common sense. I don`t know why anyone would do that,” said Chris Marchitto. He is a smoker but says nothing makes him more frustrated when he sees other smokers littering the road.

Marchitto said drivers should always put their cigarettes out in a car ashtray or drop them in a bottle of water.

The Washington State Patrol has written more than 120 infractions for cigarette violations and you can expect those numbers to go up with the renewed emphasis on the problem.

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