Peat moss sparking flowerpot fires in Alberta

Alberta firefighters are warning gardeners to be careful with peat moss after a spate of backyard and balcony fires.

Alberta firefighters are warning gardeners to be careful with peat moss after a spate of backyard and balcony fires.

So far this summer, fire crews in St. Albert, east of Edmonton, have responded to four peat moss fires, said Dave Martin, deputy chief of the city's fire department.

All the fires were ignited when people put cigarette butts into flowerpots that contained peat moss.

But Martin warned that peat mosscan also combust spontaneously, and the likelihood of that happening increases with warm weather.

"It's something that people just don't think about, but bog fires in the wild are fairly common and a fire in a peat bog can smolder for years and keep reappearing and reigniting in different spots. "

On July 6, about 100 Calgarians were left homeless after a fire broke out in a planter on the balcony of a third-floor apartment. The peat moss ignited spontaneously, sparking a blaze that caused $11 million damage.

Jeff Budai, a spokesman for the Calgary Fire Department, said planters holding peat moss shouldn't be placed next to combustibles such as propane tanks.

"Because you're dealing with an organic material, we're promoting the fact that you should mix it with something that is inorganic, such as a regular soil," he said. "And of course people with planters are also utilizing fertilizers which act as oxidizers, which obviously intensifies the fire even more."