Yakima crews find up to 1,000 cigarette butts daily

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Smoking is one of those dirty habits that's making Downtown Yakima very dirty. KIMA followed up on the problem of smokers tossing their burning cigarettes around the city. KIMA found out it's now worse than it was.

"The problem doesn't seem to be getting any better, that's for sure," said Matt Klause.

It's a familiar sight for this cleaning crew in Downtown Yakima. Matt Klause is a manager for Block by Block. He said cigarette butts make up half the litter his workers pick up here.

"Anywhere from 300 to 1,000 cigarettes a day easily," said Klause. "It's hard to keep track of how many because we pick up so many of them."

He said the problem is the worst near restaurants and bars. This is more than an eyesore. People who tossed burning cigarettes were blamed for starting some small fires.

Just last year, a planter on Second Street caught on fire. A business owner told KIMA, he had all planters near his business removed. He said it could've been a worse situation if a car next to the planter was on.

Joe Mann owns Ron's Coin and Collectibles. Two fires started near his business last year. He wasn't worried, but admits the danger is there.

"I can see from time to time maybe if you have a planter right out front of your store or if there's material that can easily be combustible," said Mann.

Yakima can fine you at least $500 for throwing away a burning cigarette. The penalty can be more than $1,000.

"Last year, we had one that we put a few buckets of water on it, but we couldn't put enough water on it to put it out," said Klause. "The fire department had to come out and soak the whole bed."

Police said careless smokers aren't penalized as often as they could be. The fire risk could cost you more if a fire starts on city property like a park.