This piece was inspired by the following news story in today’s Rotorua Daily Post:
Cigarette stub warning after blaze (Hold the [ Ctrl ] key down while clicking; it will open the news story in a new window, and you can get back here without distractions … heheh. This applies to all links in any web page.)
No mention in the piece was made by the possibility of the blaze being started by a still burning match–I guess because lighters are more frequently carried around by smokers.
I was a young child when I learned about matches. On the farm, there was always an understanding that a dropped match (back then wax matches were common) could easily start a summer fire in a hay crop or in the bush. (Another concern was a matchstick could get munched by a grazing stock, and splinter in its mouth, throat or farther down.)
So smoker farm workers would return the dead match to the box.
But as wax matches were so easily touched off, the Vespa (then even the Beehive brand “new” safety match) was returned to the box with its head at the opposite end of the box from the rest of the “live” heads.
Note the twelve pack of matches–children with little spending money would buy their dad a carton of matches as a birthday gift! ‘Quelle horreure!”
Today’s smokers borrowing my box of matches get Really Annoyed finding dead matches in the box! I still cannot let myself drop a match! I can’t even put it into an ash tray, after seeing an uncle light up his pipe and drop the hot Vespa into an ash tray. An unlit Vespa was lying there, and the heat from the blown out match was enough to set fire to the Vespa. (Aunty was Not amused.)
I believe hunters, campers and outdoorsy types can and do take wax matches along. They are safer now, not being lying loose in the box where the friction of them jumbling together could and would set the box afire. Thus they are stored in a tin, not the former cardboard matchbox.
There was also a superstition–“It’s unlucky to light three smokers’ cigarettes from a single match”.
This came from war times. In the dead of night a sniper from the “other side” would see the flare of the match being lit, then the glow of the first to light up, the second to light up–and that was enough for them to work out where the third would-be smoker was, and shoot him.
(The link is to a Wikipedia article giving more details of the superstition on usage in popular media.)