So Easy To Avoid

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: July 29, 2018

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Submitted: July 29, 2018

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So Easy To Avoid.

Back in the days when I used to smoke, I can still remember how I used to fret over making sure the damn things were out. Now matter how much I squashed with either hand or foot, I’d be back to check for any signs of a flame remaining, for any tiny puffs of smoke. My anxiety over ensuring they were completely extinguished bordered on, and maybe even crossed the line in to, OCD.

People used to look at me like I was crazy, some kind of loon. Now, as I work as a fire investigator I know how right I was. Improperly extinguished cigarettes are one of the most frequent causes of house fires, along with electrical faults, candles and open fires. This is hardly a surprise, has been known and accepted for years.

No, but in this exceptionally dry weather, those smouldering cigarettes tossed from moving vehicles are causing death and devastation on a large scale. The grass is brown, dead, will easily catch from just a tiny spark. And once it begins it will spread, even without the wind to assist it.

Three houses have been burned to the ground. Three families have lost every single thing that they owned, and in one of the houses all four of the occupants lost their lives. The only comfort is that they were overcome by smoke, would have been dead before the flames reached them.

Fields and woodland have been obliterated to ash. The fire department and a conveniently placed river prevented the blaze from heading further in to town. Many people sighed from relief once the flames were reduced from roaring to smouldering embers and finally oxygen-starved, they died.

My job, to find the cause. Not a house fire. They came almost at the inferno’s end. The road, or rather the verge is where I will search. I’m looking for a camp-fire, left before it was out, or even signs of arson. Hard as it is to believe, too many of these fires are caused quite deliberately. Maybe the intention is not to cause such an out-of-control conflagration, but once control is lost the panic sets in. Instead of phoning it in, admitting liability, the fire-starters run, leaving the flames to feed hungrily on their surroundings.

It doesn’t take me long to find the cause for this one. The cigarette butt lays partly on the highway. Some of the filter has survived. A cigarette tossed from a window as the vehicle roared past. Did they hear it on the news? Wonder if it was their rash actions that had led to the devastation, the deaths? Honestly, I doubt it.

Could forensics be used to point the finger? The butt has been scorched, it will not hold any pure genetic evidence. And it would be a case of calling for people to voluntarily come in, put themselves forward as possible suspects. It’s not going to happen. Murder by carelessness, caused by an unknown person.

All this could be prevented by one simple action – the use of an ash-tray.

 

 


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