**For Immediate Release**
Re: Spate of Fires Prompt Safety Reminder
From: Lt. Jim Bussell- Rapid City Fire Department
Date: 12/13/2017 10:00 am
High Winds, Hot Materials Combine to Pose Fire Risk
Rapid City, S.D. – According to the National Weather Service, on seven of the last ten days, Rapid City has seen wind gusts of 50 mph or higher. During that same span, Rapid City Firefighters have responded to 16 different fires. In a number of cases, the fires were caused by hot items that were not completely extinguished and were kicked up by the wind.
-On December 4, RCFD crews responded to a report of a structure fire. On arrival, crews found a plastic bucket used for discarding smoking materials that had ignited and melted the siding. The fire was out on arrival and damage to the structure was limited to the aforementioned siding.
-On December 10, RCFD crews responded to a report of a structure fire. On arrival, crews found a large pieces of furniture on fire in the yard of the home. Occupants had a small camp fire in the yard earlier in the evening. The occupants believed that they had completely extinguished the fire and went to bed. The occupants woke to the smell of smoke and found the furniture burning in the yard. Hot materials from the seemingly extinguished camp fire are believed to have blown into the furniture which then ignited them.
-On December 11, RCFD crews responded to a report of a structure fire. A plastic pot used for discarded smoking materials had ignited which then extended to siding on the residence. The fire was quickly extinguished but did result in damage to both the interior and exterior of the structure.
-Also on December 11, RCFD crews responded to a report of an exterior deck on fire at an apartment building. When crews arrived, the fire had been extinguished by maintenance workers with a fire extinguisher. A box of refuse containing smoking materials ignited on the deck which then extended to the deck materials. There was moderate damage to the deck.
The examples above highlight how, with the persistent windy conditions, items that are not completely extinguished can result in an unintended fire. As we have seen in the last 48 hours, fire combined with dry conditions and wind can prove to be catastrophic. Earlier this year, the Rapid City Fire Department issued a reminder about the potential for fire as it relates to potted plants. Because of the current conditions, potted plant fires remain a concern.
Most of the soil found in potted plants, both in homes and outside of homes, is a soil compound that contains little mineral soil and mostly organic compounds such as peat moss. These organic compounds not only contain dead plant materials that produce heat from decomposition, but will also support smoldering combustion. Many times, plant holders filled with potting soil will receive enough water to support furthering heat of decomposition, which is exacerbated if the plant is in direct sunlight. Many times individuals will use outdoor potted plants as a receptacle for discarded smoking materials as they believe the soil is primarily dirt. Due to the ability of potting soil to support smoldering combustion, when conditions are right (hot temps, wind, dry conditions, etc.), the smoldering conditions can turn into a free burning fire. The problem quickly worsens when the pot is made of plastic or wood products, and spreads to other surrounding materials.
The Rapid City Fire Department would like to take the opportunity to remind homeowners to check potted plants for moisture content, especially since our growing season is over for the year. Many homeowners have stopped watering these plants. Dispose of the dead root material, and store them in a cool, dry place for next season. Additionally, please properly dispose of any smoking materials in approved containers only, and know that potting soil is not a good option for this. Lastly, kindly consider purchasing outdoor pots made of fire resistant materials.
For questions or comment related to this release, please contact RCFD Public Information Officer Jim Bussell at the information provided above.