Know The Law: Tossed smokes, reckless burning

Throwing away of lighted matches, cigarettes, and other materials is prohibited under Oregon.

As Oregon moves into its second week of a declared wildfire State of Emergency, officials are urging everyone to know Oregon's laws about fire prevention.

Large wildland fires are a part of living in the Pacific Northwest during the summer months.

Wildland fires are dangerous, costly, and have a severe impact on air quality, according to a release from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.

“Our partner agencies in the fire service do a great job of providing public information about burning and outdoor recreation restrictions to keep us all educated and safe, the release reads. “Despite their best prevention efforts, firefighters are still called upon to extinguish human-caused wildland fires all over the state.”

Discarded cigarettes are a frequent cause of wildland fires along roadways, according to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. Even if the discarded cigarette does not start a fire, throwing them out of the car is still a crime under the Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS).

Throwing away of lighted matches, cigarettes, and other materials is prohibited under Oregon. ORS 476.715 reads, “No one shall, at any time, throw away any lighted tobacco, cigars, cigarettes, matches or other lighted material, on any forestland, private road, public highway or railroad right of way within this state.”

This crime is a Class B misdemeanor and applies year-round.

Offensive Littering

Oregon also has an offensive littering law. According to ORS 164.805, “Discarding or depositing any rubbish, trash, garbage, debris or other refuse upon the land of another without permission of the owner, or upon any public way or in or upon any public transportation facility” or “Permitting any rubbish, trash, garbage, debris or other refuse to be thrown from a vehicle that the person is operating.”

This crime is a Class C misdemeanor and can apply to the person who threw out the cigarette and to the person operating the vehicle.

Reckless Burning

People found reckless burning also face penalties.

ORS 164.335 states, “A person commits the crime of reckless burning if the person recklessly damages property of another by fire or explosion.” This crime is a Class A misdemeanor.

Despite being a criminal act, discarded cigarette butts detract from the natural beauty of the area. Discarded cigarettes can contain chemicals and carcinogens that are harmful to animals and the environment, according to the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office release.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared the wildfire State of Emergency on Aug. 19.

Oregon has experienced wildfires this season that have resulted in evacuations, threatened critical infrastructure, and destroyed homes and other structures.

The extended forecast in Oregon calls for continued warm and dry conditions, resulting in the imminent threat of fire over a broad area of the state.


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