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Potting soil emerging as a fire hazard

Canada NewsWire
Jul 21, 2010

GUELPH, ON, July 21 /CNW/ - In March, a massive fire destroyed a Calgary condominium complex, leaving at least 250 occupants homeless. The combustive culprit was a cigarette in a planter outside the complex. Recently there has been a spike in fires sparked by smoking materials in potting soil. The Co-operators is urging Canadians to be aware of the danger associated with disposing cigarettes in potted plants.

There has recently been a noticeable increase of incidents of fires caused by dry peat moss in potting soil. Problems are also related to fertilizers in the soil, which can act as oxidizers that accelerate fires. Many potting soils on the market today contain less dirt and more organic substances that are flammable, such as shredded wood, bark, peat moss, Styrofoam, and vermiculite.

"People should remember to be prudent when disposing their cigarettes," said Glen Oxford, claims manager for The Co-operators. "You might think you are safely extinguishing it in dirt and not realize the soil is actually flammable. The reality is that homes have burned to the ground because of careless cigarette disposal."

In light of this, The Co-operators offers the following tips to reduce potted planter fires:

    -   Do not use potted plants as an ashtray.
    -   Provide an appropriate ashtray/smoker's receptacle wherever people
        are smoking.
    -   Always keep potted plants well watered and maintained.
    -   Do not keep potted plants near combustible materials.
    -   Unused potting soil should be spread in your yard or garden.
    -   Use clay planter pots whenever possible, as they may keep potting
        soil fires better contained.

Due to smoking by-laws and changes in habits, more smokers are lighting up outside than in the past and when ashtrays are not available, smokers often use outdoor pots to extinguish their cigarettes. A preventative measure to reduce the risk of potting soil fires is to make ashtrays more readily accessible for outdoor smokers.

About The Co-operators:

The Co-operators Group Limited is a 100 per cent Canadian-owned co-operative with more than $36.9 billion in assets under administration. Through its group of companies, it offers home, auto, life, group, travel, commercial and farm insurance, as well as investment products.

The Co-operators is owned by 47 Canadian co-operatives, credit union centrals and like-minded organizations. It is well known for its community involvement, and is listed among the 50 Best Employers in Canada.

For further information: Leonard Sharman, The Co-operators, 1-877-795-7272, ext. 2707

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