Potting soil can be a fire hazard (but the bag may not say so)

Published: Dec. 9, 2019 at 9:04 PM CST
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Seeing a house catch fire in the middle of the night can be unnerving. Thankfully a family who lives near 50th and Leavenworth was alerted to their house fire by a party bus full of people.

But in the light of day, the reason for the fire at Jean and Joel Hanson's home brought a dangerous reality to light.

"So, potting soil is combustible..." Battalion Fire Chief Scott Fitzpatrick said. "How the potting soil is made up, there is some kind of flammable or combustible material that's in it."

Fitzpatrick said the issue with potting soil is that the materials inside the bag smolder.

6 News wanted to know what's in potting soil, so we looked at the labels. Common ingredients included peat moss, coconut husk fiber, and wood chips.

Fitzpatrick said a cigarette snuffed out in a flower pot is enough to start a deadly chain reaction.

"It continues to burn — it might not be out all the way, and there is no wind in there," Fitzpatrick said. "It kind of just continue to heat up and burn and possibly cause a fire."

Fitzpatrick told us an ember can live for hours. The Hansons told 6 News, it was 10 hours before theirs ignited.

We tried it out for ourselves: We put a match to dry potting soil and sure enough, we had an ember. That tiny glow we created had the same power as the one that engulfed Hanson's porch.

"You just think it's dirt, and it's nothing any different," Joel Hanson said. "Putting it out in there would be fine but evidently not."

We couldn't find a warning on any bags letting buyers know of the possible danger, but we did find products clearly marked that they weren't flammable.

Both the Hansons and Fitzpatricks say, for now, it's important to be aware of where smoking materials get discarded.