Now it’s so hot even the soil is catching fire! Home damaged in blaze caused by a bone-dry potted plant

Millions of bags of potting soil are sold  nationwide every year, but with temperatures climbing ever higher, a handful of  harmless dirt can turn into a fire hazard – a lesson that a West Virginia family  learned the hard way.

Firefighters have determined that a porch  fire on Washington Avenue in Wheeling last month started because a potted plant  overheated and burst into flames, causing significant damage to the exterior of  the house.

Although soil fires are not an everyday  occurrence, officials say that they can happen with the right combination of  high humidity, extreme heat and dry soil, according to the station WTOV.

Fire hazard: Potting soil that contains fertilizer can burst into flames if exposed to high humidity in combination with extreme heat

Fire hazard: Potting soil that contains fertilizer can  burst into flames if exposed to high humidity in combination with extreme  heat

Wheeling Fire Department Assistant Chief Ed  Geisel said the mixture of the potting soil, shredded bark, peat moss and  Styrofoam balls can be flammable in those conditions.

‘Back to the old rule of spontaneous  combustion: The organic and inorganic material that is put in potting soil now  combined with some fertilizers that some soils have. And fertilizer is an  oxidizer, which would intensify spontaneous combustion,’ Geisel  explained.

A house in Wheeling sustained heavy damage when a dry potted plant outside sparked a fire

Spontaneous combustion: A house in Wheeling sustained  heavy damage when a dry potted plant outside sparked a fire

Although potting soil usually causes small  conflagrations that can be easily put out, in case of the Wheeling fire, by the  time someone spotted the flames, the damages has already been done to the house.

What raises concerns is that although fire  officials like Geisel are well aware of potting soil’s potential  combustibility, there are no fire hazard  warning labels on bags containing the product in home and garden  stores.

No warning: Bags of potting soil that are sold in home and garden stores do not carry fire hazard labels

No warning: Bags of potting soil that are sold in home  and garden stores do not carry fire hazard labels

Geisel said the best way to prevent a fire is  to simply water potted plants, especially in the hot summer months, and remove  dead vegetation.

The soil could also ignite when people use  their potted plants as ashtrays

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