Howard County fire officials are warning residents to be careful how they dispose of smoking materials in the wake of three cigarette-related fires at Columbia houses in the past week.
On Tuesday evening, a deck fire in the 8400 block of Kings Meade Way caused an estimated $10,500 in damages.
Later Tuesday night, a townhouse deck in the 7200 block of Procopio Circle caught fire and caused an estimated $4,000 in damages.
On the following morning, another deck fire at a townhouse in the 6500 block of Pressed Gentian caused an estimated $1,000 in damages.
All three fires, according to the county Department of Fire and Rescue Services, were caused by the improper disposal of smoking materials.
In the first fire, a resident suffered minor lung irritation but declined to be taken to the hospital. No other injuries were reported from any of the fires.
Fire officials warned residents to use sturdy ashtrays and to make sure any smoking materials or ashes are completely doused before they are discarded — especially given the current dry, windy conditions that can make fire spread more rapidly.