Potted Plants are Not Ashtrays

Posted on Wednesday July 23, 2014 |

Using a potted plant or planter to extinguish a cigarette may seem safe, but the reality is that it is a fire hazard.

Potting soil is not dirt. It is made up combustible organic materials such as peat moss, shredded wood or bark, vermiculite and/or perlite that incorporate oxygen into the soil and fertilizer. Add a burning ember, such as a cigarette butt to the mixture and you have a recipe for disaster.

Fire departments across North America report this serious problem has caused many fires on balconies and in yards over the years. Some of these fires have had disastrous consequences. 

On July 21, 2014 a 186 suite Edmonton condominium was badly damaged and 400 residents displaced when a fire broke out in the middle of the night. The cause of the fire? A cigarette improperly disposed of in a potted plant on a fourth floor balcony.

This is just the most recent instance of a fire that was started, unintentionally, in this manner. Unfortunately it happens far too often.

Potting soil that has dried out, perhaps with dead plants, can also spontaneously combust if the conditions are right.
Unlike a single-family home, where one or sometimes a few families are tragically displaced, a condominium fire can affect hundreds of people.

How can you prevent potting soil fires?

  • Provide proper receptacles for disposing of smoking materials
  • Never use a planter pot as an ashtray
  • Keep your planters watered and maintained; check them often during hot, sunny, dry spells
  • Remove dead plants from planters
  • Do not store bags of potting soil near combustible materials or in direct sunlight
  • Choose clay containers over plastic
The best property management companies work hard to educate residents about the dangers of situations such as this in an effort to prevent this type of disaster.

A good manager ensures that condominium properties are properly appraised and insured. They also have experience and know what to do when disaster strikes.

To learn what you can do to be prepared for the unthinkable, read our Condo Living Resource Disaster: Prepare for the Worst, Hope for the Best.

For more information on how the right property management company can help your community be prepared for a disaster, contact FirstService Residential, North America’s leading property management company.

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