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snopes 26 May 2007 04:51 PM

Fertilizer warning
 
Comment: The house of one of our colleagues in Zumbrota burned to the ground last
week. The cause was a bag of Miracle Grow potting soil that was left on
her deck in the sun and ignited. The fire chief from Minneapolis said he
had heard of a couple of other instances of this happening. Since part of
our charge is public safety, I thought I would pass this on as a warning
people should know, especially now in planting season.

MissBethiepoo 26 May 2007 06:50 PM

Well, I live in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota and if this were to have actually happen, I think I would have heard about it or it would have at least been in the newspaper.

Besides, other than a little bit of plant food mixed in with nutrient rich soil, what on earth would make a bag of Miracle Grow catch fire? Strange.

queen of the caramels 27 May 2007 12:06 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by MissBethiepoo (Post 187616)
Well, I live in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota and if this were to have actually happen, I think I would have heard about it or it would have at least been in the newspaper.

Besides, other than a little bit of plant food mixed in with nutrient rich soil, what on earth would make a bag of Miracle Grow catch fire? Strange.

I'm guessing that people hear fertilizer and remembering that ammonium nitrate(NH4NO3) has been used in bomb making. (Wiki on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ammonium_nitrate) and this chap(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_McVeigh).

RichardM 27 May 2007 12:14 AM

I now investigate fires for a living. I haven't heard of this but then I have been in the forensic business for only 6 months. I will ask at the office come next Tuesday if every one can wait that long.

Troberg 27 May 2007 05:06 AM

It shouldn't ignite that easily, but what might happen if the factory effed up somehow and got the proportions wrong, or did not mix it properly so that the proportions were wrong locally. I'm no chemist, but I think that might be able to get some unexpected results, especially since it's a fairly energetic mixture, energetic enough to use in amateur rocket fuel and explosives.

KathyB 29 May 2007 09:09 PM

Watch out for flaming flower pots In 2006, a Wisconsin man returned home to find a strangely melted pot of begonias. Investigators found a cigarette butt which had apparently ignited peat moss in the potting soil. Officials issued an alert.

A fire in Red Deer, Alberta "apparently started when a cigarette was tossed in a peat-moss planter on the front porch." The city has informatin on Potting Soil Fires and Your Safety

KathyB 29 May 2007 09:15 PM

More:

A fire in Roseville, Minn, attributed to spontaneous combustiion of potting soil in pots. Coventry Apratments

Potting Soil Fires and Your Safety "During this past year, the Colorado Springs Fire Department has investigated several fires caused by potting soil. In fact, just this year alone our community has suffered property losses in excess of 3 million dollars due to potting soil fires. "

erwins 29 May 2007 09:18 PM

The MSDS for Miracle Gro potting soil lists the flammability rating as 0, which = "minimal." (MSDS found here).

Even if it did happen, it seems as though it would be less likely to happen than having your compost heap catch fire -- i.e., it isn't terribly likely, and can be prevented with some very simple measures. I happen to have recently used some Miracle Gro soil/fertilizer mix, and the fertilizer is in tiny pellets spread through the mixture. I'm not really seeing how the whole thing could burst into flames. Start smoldering under the right conditions...maybe, but again, it seems highly unlikely.

erwins

diddy 29 May 2007 09:29 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by MissBethiepoo (Post 187616)
Well, I live in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota and if this were to have actually happen, I think I would have heard about it or it would have at least been in the newspaper.

Besides, other than a little bit of plant food mixed in with nutrient rich soil, what on earth would make a bag of Miracle Grow catch fire? Strange.

Same here. IT would have defiantly made the local news or the local morning show. Not a peep.

DawnStorm 30 May 2007 03:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by diddy (Post 190849)
Same here. IT would have defiantly made the local news or the local morning show. Not a peep.



I certainly would've read/heard about it too!

texaschristian 20 June 2007 02:31 PM

Some fertilizers contain ammonium nitrate, which can be combustible in certain conditions. This is what caused the tragedy in Texas City in 1947 - ammonium nitrate fertilizer in the hold of the USS Grand Camp caught fire and eventually exploded under pressure. This is also the principle behind the bomb used by Timothy McVeigh in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

HOWEVER...

Miracle Grow contains less than 6% ammoniacal nitrogen according to their label. The average box of miracle grow is a few pounds at most. Cardboard boxes and/or plastic bags are unlikely to allow significant pressure to build up. Sunlight on an open back porch is unlikely to create high enough temperatures to cause danger. Which, combined, makes this scenario sound very, very unlikely.

Add that to the fact that the story is long on fear and short on details, and the fact that local area residents report a complete absence of the story in the media, an I think I'm going to vote for this one being false.

claudia 20 June 2007 11:35 PM

I heard a report of this on the local news. I remember not understanding how it was possible, but I didn't research it and forgot about it until now.

martianmouse 07 June 2011 05:06 PM

It really IS flammable - personal experience
 
This happened to me two nights ago. I had a candle burning next to a pot with some seeds planted in it. At some point, the candle must have sparked or flamed up and sent a piece of burning debris into the flower pot. All I know is that when I found it, the entire pot of dirt was in flames.

True story. Happened Sunday night, 6/5/11. I live alone, so no one else would have messed with it.

musicgeek 08 June 2011 04:16 PM

Welcome to the boards!

As was linked in the earlier article (and as you know from your experience), peat moss-based seed starting mixture can be quite flammable when ignited by an outside source. However, the question is whether the assertion in the OP - that a bag of Miracle-Gro potting soil can spontaneously combust when left in the sun - is valid.

I know that some forms of Miracle-Gro soil (seed starting mixture, "moisture control," etc.) have high proportions of dry organic matter in them. I wonder if there was a glass container or curved reflected surface on the deck that might have created a focused hot spot sufficient to cause ignition? (Thinking of the hotel "death ray" that made news a while back.)

ETA:Zombie thread! I didn't notice the year of the O.P.

Keeper of the Mad Bunnies 09 June 2011 03:38 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by snopes (Post 187532)
The cause was a bag of Miracle Grow potting soil that was left on her deck in the sun and ignited.

Interesting. I have three 2.5 cu ft bags of Miracle Gro potting soil (without the moisture retention) that have been sitting in the afternoon sun for almost a week now.

No fire yet.

hikesalot 20 June 2011 07:24 PM

Bag of fertilizer ignited a fire in Tucson
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by snopes (Post 187532)
Comment: The house of one of our colleagues in Zumbrota burned to the ground last
week. The cause was a bag of Miracle Grow potting soil that was left on
her deck in the sun and ignited. The fire chief from Minneapolis said he
had heard of a couple of other instances of this happening. Since part of
our charge is public safety, I thought I would pass this on as a warning
people should know, especially now in planting season.

More people need to know about this. My neighbor's bag of manure ignited yesterday and burned the back of her house and half of my yard yesterday. The fire dept. said you should not store manure in the sun. It was even next to her water source, which made it worse. Apparently heat, pressure, and moisture are what cause manure to ignite. Fortunately no one was hurt, but there is property damage.


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