Potted plant reportedly spontaneously combusts, starts house fire in Windsor

Local News

WINDSOR, Colo. (KDVR) — An unlikely culprit is being blamed for a recent house fire in northern Colorado – a potted plant. 

According to Jennifer Adamson, firefighters believe a potted plant on her back porch was the cause of a fire on July 9, that nearly burned down her home. 

“I was at work at the hospital, and I got a call from my neighbor telling me that my house was on fire,” Adamson said. “I left work right away, came home, and found it still standing, thankfully.” 

Adamson said a neighbor grabbed a hose and put out the fire, while another neighbor called 911. 

She said firefighters believe a plant in a plastic pot she had been given for Mother’s Day started the fire. 

“What she said is some soils, when they’re packed in tight in hot weather, can just spontaneously combust, and start to smolder, and catch on fire,” Adamson said.

Adamson said the plant was in direct sunlight on the porch, and had not been watered in about a week. 

She said at first she was shocked by the explanation. 

“Big time disbelief, I have never heard about something like that before,” she said. “I googled it, and sure enough, this is actually a thing.”

At City Floral in Denver, Manager Christine Hise said she’s heard of potting mix catching fire, but only under extreme conditions.

“I’ve not heard of it happening on its own, I have heard of it happening when someone would put a cigarette out in a pot,” she said.

Hise said most standard potting mixes contain peat moss, which can be flammable. Some potting mixes also contain various fertilizers, which can be flammable as well. 

“It is crazy, but we’ve had some extreme heat,” she said. “It had to have been some very extreme circumstances, or perfect conditions.”

Adamson said she doesn’t smoke, and said nobody was at home when the fire started. 

“It’s a new build, so not a lot of shade, so this gets beaten down by the sun a lot,” she said. “This is just a great learning lesson for everyone involved.”

Hise said it’s something to keep in mind, but in general, homeowners shouldn’t be too concerned. 

“I would not be worried about it one bit, especially if you water regularly, and don’t let your pots dry out,” she said. “I think it was just an extreme condition that had to have caused this to happen.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Windsor Fire Department said:

Potted plants spontaneously combusting is not very common but it does happen. This is one of the hypothesis for this fire, but it will remain undetermined at this point.

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