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Flaming flower pot causes $10,000 damage to balcony

Mar 29 2012

Residents were evacuated from a Vic West apartment building Thursday morning after a flaming flower pot caused about $10,000 damage to a tenant’s balcony.

Damage was isolated to one second-storey suite and no one was injured.

Fire alarms were ringing at 3:30 a.m. Thursday morning and the Victoria fire department received several calls about smoke coming from a building at 405 Catherine Street, off Esquimalt Road.

It turned out the fire in apartment No. 207 originated in a balcony flower pot that had been used by the tenant to extinguish cigarettes, according to Acting Battalion Chief Peter Stephenson.

The apartment manager was spraying the balcony with dry-chem and “threw the flower pot off the deck,” Stephenson said.

The fire got into the balcony walls and the stucco was removed to ensure there were no hot spots.

The acting battalion chief said it’s not the first smoking flower pot he’s seen. The culprit can often be peat moss which is used as a soil conditioner. It has a high carbon content and once ignited it smolders.

In the past, the firefighter has gone into homes and detected a burning smell and not been able to locate a fire, only to discover that an incense stick stuck in a flower pot is smoldering beneath the soil’s surface.

“Smoldering fires are the worst because they come in the middle of the night when everyone has gone to bed and thinks the [lit substance] is extinguished,” Stephenson said.

Fire fighters now use thermal imaging cameras to instantly detect the heat source of fires so detection is not the issue it used to be, Stephenson said.

Acting Capt. Al Griffin, from the Bay Street fire hall, and Acting Battalion Chief Mark Robertson, from the main fire hall in Victoria, led the firefighters, two engines and ladder trucks.

The safest way to put out smoking materials is water followed by sand “but never inside your lodging,” said Stephenson.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com