Discarded cigarettes spark apartment fire

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HOUSTON - Discarded cigarettes sparked a southwest Houston apartment fire early Monday, fire officials said.

The blaze broke out at 3435 Walnut Bend Lane shortly before 5 a.m. Approximately 65 firefighters responded to the scene and the fire was put out in about 20 minutes.

Eight units were damaged; four suffered heavy damage. No injuries were reported.

Firefighters found several discarded cigarettes started the fire, which traveled up a wall into the attic area.

The American Red Cross helped displaced families.

The National Fire Protection Association said smoking materials (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, etc.) are the leading cause of fire deaths in the United States. Cigarettes can smolder for hours, starting a fire hours later. To help prevent such a tragedy, the HFD and NFPA recommend the following safety tips:

• Always have a working smoke detector.
• To prevent a deadly cigarette fire, you have to be alert. You won't be if you are sleepy, have been drinking, or have taken medicine or other drugs.
• If you smoke, smoke outside, however use deep, wide ashtrays on a sturdy surface.
• Before you throw out the butts and ashes from ashtrays, make sure they are out, and dousing in water or sand is the best way to do that.
• Check under furniture cushions and in other places people smoke for cigarette butts that may have fallen out of sight.
• Always, keep matches and lighters up high, out of children's sight and reach.

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