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Be careful with cigars, cigarettes, fire chief warns

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Boston Fire Commissioner Joseph E. Finn is asking the public to be more careful with smoking materials after three major fires in one week last month were found to have been caused by improper disposal of cigars or cigarettes.
Boston Fire Commissioner Joseph E. Finn is asking the public to be more careful with smoking materials after three major fires in one week last month were found to have been caused by improper disposal of cigars or cigarettes.John Tlumacki

Boston Fire Commissioner Joseph E. Finn has asked the public to be more careful with cigarettes and cigars after three major fires in one week last month were caused by discarded smoking materials.

"What we're starting to see is a trend of reemergence of smoking material being a leading cause of fire in the city," said Finn at a Thursday press conference at Engine 32 in Charlestown, less than a mile from where a six-alarm fire gutted two buildings on Bunker Hill Street on July 21.

Two more multiple-alarm fires in East Boston and Dorchester followed that week and, Finn said, could have also been prevented if people had been more careful with their smoking materials.

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The three fires caused an estimated $10 million worth of structural damage and property loss in less than a week, he added. Twenty-three units were affected, leaving 54 people displaced.

In both 2014 and 2015, the Boston Fire Department responded to roughly 55 fires caused by discarded smoking materials each year, according to Finn. This year, the department has already seen more than 50 fires caused by discarded smoking materials.

"So you can see in the first seven months of the year, we've got a significant increase," Finn said.

He called on smokers to have cups of water or sand on hand when smoking.

The recent heat wave, he added, has not helped because it has left dry brush and rubbish vulnerable to fire. And firefighters have also had to fight heat exhaustion, he said, although there were no significant injuries after any of the three fires.


Vivian Wang can be reached at vivian.wang@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @vwang3.