A report of a fire at The Flats was most likely caused by a discarded cigarette, Director of News and Media Relations Joe Kleinsasser said.
An employee at The Flats reported that mulch on the west end of the building was smoldering Saturday afternoon.
A WSU police officer sprayed down the area where he saw flames until a Wichita Fire Department truck arrived, Kleinsasser said.
Kleinsasser said the officer observed several cigarette butts in close proximity to the area that caught fire, and that the cigarettes were “the most likely cause of the fire.”
A university initiative banning the use of tobacco on campus went into effect July 1, which resulted in the removal of all ashtrays from campus.
With no true power to penalize tobacco users, the university organized a group of “Tobacco Free Campus Ambassadors” to monitor tobacco usage on campus.
The ambassadors’ job is to provide tobacco users with smoking cessation aides and information regarding the campus tobacco-free policy.
University police chief Robert Hinshaw said he is unsure if there is a link between the removal of ashtrays from campus and an increase of accidental fires caused by the improper disposal of cigarettes.
“I would be hard-pressed to say that this fire was a consequence of removing the ashtrays from campus,” Hinshaw wrote in an email.
“I would say that fires are more likely to happen when burning materials are not disposed of properly – regardless of whether an ashtray is close-by.”