Deck fire in Snowmass prompts warning from officials

Staff report

A small fire at an apartment in Snowmass Village prompted fire officials to remind residents of safety regarding outdoor plants.

The fire occurred on the deck of an apartment at the Mountain View complex in Snowmass Village. The blaze originated within a plastic pot and burned a hole through the 2-inch thick deck, said a statement from the Snowmass Wildcat Fire Protection District.

The Fire Department was not dispatched to the scene. The fire was reported by property management after the fact, and the Fire Department began investigating it May 26. The fire’s cause is still under investigation.

“This fire had the potential of causing a significant amount of damage,” said the statement, released by Fire Marshal John T. Mele. “The actual cause of the fire is still under investigation.”

Fire departments in North America have reported an above-average number of fires caused by potting soil catching fire in recent years. These fires have two primary causes: careless disposal of smoking materials and spontaneous combustion.

The Snowmass Fire Department wants to remind residents to be careful about where they put out smoking materials and be conscious of the flammability of potting soil, which can contain inorganic material that ignites easily.

Potting material also can self-ignite with the right mix of heat and humidity, similarly to how some compost piles or hay bales combust, Mele said.

“We acknowledge that the chance of spontaneous combustion is low, but it does happen more often than you think,” Mele wrote in the statement. “More importantly, if a potted plant is allowed to dry out and something hot is placed in it, such as a lit cigarette, it will burn. The point here is to be knowledgeable about the potential hazards of old potting-soil supplies and be responsible with your smoking materials.”

Residents should always call 911 if they detect signs of fire and can’t locate the source, Mele added.