Spontaneous Combustion

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Spontaneous Combustion

Postby soccermomof3 » Sun May 31, 2015 9:20 am

Maybe this is a well known fact to gardeners, but I thought I'd pass it on just in case. A home near here had a fire which started in a plastic planter containing peat moss sitting in a wooden planter box. It overheated to the point it began smouldering, and eventually lighted the planter. It caused $300,000 damage to the outside of the house! Apparently, this happens a few times every year. The fire department here recommends keeping extra bags of peat moss or mulch in metal trash cans with tight fitting lids, and if possible not keeping bags of these in wooden sheds, on decks etc that may cause fire to spread. Pretty scary!
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Re: Spontaneous Combustion

Postby OGrubber » Mon Jun 01, 2015 9:08 am

This is very disturbing, and no, I didn't know.
Were there particular or unusual circumstances to cause this?
I'm asking because I've always stored my peat bags in the greenhouse against a side wall and it does get hot there...
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Re: Spontaneous Combustion

Postby Andrea » Mon Jun 01, 2015 10:39 am

Not sure about this one but I have read other reports of this and all that I read about proved otherwise through investigation.They found most were from lit cigs being either tossed and landing in it or someone who likes to butt them out in planters.I too kept my peat stored in the shed that was attached to the end of the GH with never a problem and the heat in there was wicked through the summer.
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Re: Spontaneous Combustion

Postby davefrombc » Mon Jun 01, 2015 11:14 am

I also find it highly doubtful. As Molly mentioned, it was most likely someone discarding or stubbing a cigarette butt out in the planter..and that planter had to have had a large percentage of very dry peat in it. Spontaneous combustion does occur, but it is usually in containers or piles of wood chips or other combustibles that are large enough to hold the heat from damp material being broken down by bacterial action. There have been instances where a large pile or container of mechanics oily rags have also spontaneously combusted.
Here is an article in the Toronto Sun about the fire supposedly caused by peat spontaneously combusting. http://www.torontosun.com/2011/06/05/bu ... -pot-fires
There used to be several large peat mining and processing plants here, and I don't recall any stories of them having problems with peat stored inside or out igniting that way ... It is possible , but would require a very rare set of circumstances for it to occur;and in a flower pot or planter? ... very highly unlikely. Even a bale of compressed peat would not likely have enough mass to hold heat in to the point it can build up high enough to start smouldering.
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Re: Spontaneous Combustion

Postby soccermomof3 » Mon Jun 01, 2015 8:09 pm

You may be right; people may not want to admit they put out cigarettes in these situations. We did have another news story though about a local greenhouse, with a fire apparently starting spontaneously in a pile of used potting soil. Who knows?
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Re: Spontaneous Combustion

Postby A Closet Canuck » Thu Jun 04, 2015 5:34 pm

Guess it's time to move the peat. No point in burning down the screen porch.

At our library, there is one spot in a bed near the front door where some inconsiderate landscaper dumped a bunch of peat when finishing the landscaping job. I found this stash of peat when I was digging the area to put in hostas. This area is under part of the front canopy so the peat is very dry and covered with a chipped mulch. People use the area for their own personal ashtray. I won't be surprised if the front of the library ends up scorched.
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