Smoking motorists beware
10 November 2008
By Michelle Jones
The city of Cape Town has warned that it will be tough on motorists caught flinging burning cigarette butts or matches out of car windows in the coming fire season months.
Butts and matches have caused hundreds of fires, and Fire and Rescue station commander Denzel Ramedies said a R1 000 fine would be issued to anyone caught throwing burning cigarette “stompies” or matches on the ground.
He said high winds and dry vegetation during the dry summer season made the Western Cape more prone to the risk of fires spreading rapidly and becoming uncontrollable.
“Everyone has a role to play in minimising the risk. The city calls on all motorists to make use of the ashtrays in their vehicles to dispose of matches and cigarette butts,” Ramedies said.
He said the intention of the campaign, launched last year, was not to fine people, but to encourage them to police themselves.
Working on Fire’s national co-ordinator, Michelle Kleinhans, said the initiative was “absolutely wonderful”.
“It will definitely stop more fires from starting,” she said.
WoF, which co-ordinates teams of firefighters nationwide, responded last year to more than 100 wildfires in the Western Cape, two thirds of which occurred in January and February.
The city amended its fire safety bylaw last year to make it easier to fine people who threw burning butts or matches out of car windows.
It is now no longer necessary for the prosecution to prove who tossed out the burning item. Instead, the owner of the vehicle would be fined unless he or she chose to take the matter to court, Ramedies said.
If a motorist or passenger is spotted throwing burning matches or cigarette butts from a vehicle, they may be reported to the city’s 24-hour emergency control centre on 021 424 7715.
“Witnesses are asked to provide their name and contact details when reporting a transgression of the bylaw. Once a case has been reported, a fire department official will contact the complainant to investigate the case,” Ramedies said.
The centre will ask for details of where and when the incident occurred, as well as the vehicle registration number and description.
* This article was originally published on page 3 of The Cape Times on November 10, 2008