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Did you know that over the last several years there has been a higher average of fires in North America? Reports say in some cases the fires have been quite serious.

The cause of some these accidental fires are outdoor potted plants; either careless disposal of smoking materials and/or spontaneous combustion. In most of North America smoking is only permitted in the great outdoors and in most cases ashtrays and/or receptacles for cigarette butts are not provided. Subsequently, smokers butt out in any available container; such as an outdoor potted planter. There have also been reports of fires where potting soil has self-ignited. This can happen if a plastic planter is left in direct sun, neglected and allowed to completely dry out. Potting soil poses such a fire risk because it contains a high amount of inorganic material that may ignite easily.

Today’s potting mixes sold in garden stores contain little or no actual soil:

  •      sphagnum peat moss
  •      vermiculite
  •      perlite
  •      styrofoam pellets
  •      aged composted forest products such as shredded wood or bark
  •      fertilizer

All of which are a blend of materials designed to absorb and retain water and aerate the soil. Many people tend to forget about their outdoor potted plant come the summer months. As the plant dries out the potting material act as heat absorbers and a fire can start all on its own.

Spontaneous combustion happens when combined with temperature build-up from bacterial decomposition, the right mix of heat and humidity and the presence of fertilizer. Fire departments state that the chances of an outdoor potted plant combusting is relatively low; however, if a potted plant is allowed to dry out and something hot is placed in it, such as a lit cigarette, it will burn.

Some helpful tips to consider that will help prevent losses due to a potting soil fire:

  •  Provide smokers with a designated smoking area;
  •  Provide proper receptacles for cigarette disposal;
  •  Tell smokers not to use any pots containing potting soil as an ashtray;
  •  Maintain your planters, keep plants fresh and watered and check them frequently in hot sunny dry weather;
  •  Discard any dead plants in planters;
  •  Don’t store bags of potting soil in direct sunlight and near any combustible materials;
  •  Avoid plastic planters; clay pots hold moisture better and will contain a fire; and
  •  Avoid plastic planters if possible and opt for clay ones, which will better contain a fire if one occurs.

For more helpful tips and/or more information on this subject please contact Crossroads Insurance