COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Lots of questions are still surrounding how a small plant fire could have destroyed 20 homes in Southeast Colorado Springs.
The Colorado Springs Fire Department said the destructive fire started when a resident put their cigarette butt in a planter. It's a seemingly normal place for someone to put out a cigarette, but in fact, it's highly flammable.
Most potting soils are filled with organic material that can quickly catch fire. Among them is peat moss, charcoal, and bark.
Robin Boutilier, a horticulturist at Better Earth Garden Center said, "The peat moss can be especially flammable especially with the dry weather we've had. It doesn't take much. It takes maybe a little spark or something for that to go up."
A cigarette won't always catch fire immediately if it's left in soil, Colorado Springs Fire Captain Brian Vaughan, says, "It could smolder over days so you could put a cigarette out over Monday and maybe Wednesday the fire starts, or maybe you put it out on Monday and Monday the fire starts, or maybe it doesn't start, but that fact is you're rolling the dice."
The potting soil was just one part of the disastrous combination. The plant fire eventually ignited plastic items left on the resident's porch. When that fire grew to over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, it busted a nearby gas meter.
These gas meters are directly connected to the pipes that lead gas into homes, so when the meter comes off, it feeds natural gas directly into the air.