Cigarette Butts, Flower Pots and Fire Risk

Condominium Fire Prevention

The majority of fires in condominium complexes are caused by the people residing within them. One of the leading causes of fires is cigarettes. Many know the importance of butting out your cigarette, but most don’t fully understand the importance of doing so safely. Look into most planters outside buildings, and you will often see a collage of cigarette butts. These cigarette butts can ignite the soil and planter with devastating effects. Of course nobody wants a fire at their home, but the impact it would have on your life is a bit of a mystery to most. This leads to the question, “How does a fire impact those affected?”

Smoking material fires across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec continue to cause on average about $47.8 million dollars of economic loss each year.


The Impact of Fires in Condo Buildings

When discussing fires, people often immediately think of the loss of their personal belongings. Too often we hear, “I don’t own that much”, but the truth is that if you had to go out tomorrow to replace everything you have in your home, the costs would quickly become overwhelming.

When a fire occurs, the most important thing is always life safety and ensuring you get out of danger, as quickly as possible to prevent injury or death. In the moments following a fire, feelings of panic, anxiety, fear and concern may be overwhelming. A question you never had to consider before, like “where will I sleep tonight,” may cross your mind. Then it starts to set in, the real loss from a fire.

While you search for a new temporary living arrangement, the security and comfort of your home is no longer there. Whether you decide to live in a hotel temporarily, or search for a rental suite nearby, there are pros and cons to measure as well as costs that you will incur. Most consider the regular cost of a rental, forgetting you do not have a bed to lay on or pots and pans to cook. The cost of a furnished suite can be double the cost of what you were expecting to incur.

Unfortunately, your mortgage payments do not stop just because you are not living in the home. This is on top of your new living expenses. Most people are also surprised to learn that the strata fees will continue, even if the building is no longer standing. The combination of these expenses, on top of your regular expenses, can be devastating.

Reconstruction of a condominium can take years to complete. In the present environment, delays with labour shortages, supply chain issues, and permitting make it difficult to keep a project moving forward at a quick pace. For these reasons it is important to have adequate policy limits to ensure you are covered from beginning to end.

At this point, you have all of these expenses and costs and you have yet to step into your unit.  In most cases, original construction will be covered by the condo’s insurance policy, which is great news. However, any upgrades or improvements you may have done over the years, likely are not. This would be another expense on the growing pile of invoices falling into your lap.

What about all the contents that used to fill the space? From clothing and personal belongings, to furniture and electronics, it adds up quickly. Even if you had an old sofa that you didn’t think was worth much, the cost to replace it can become pricey.

These are just some of the “usual” expenses we see after a fire. Sadly, these fires happen regularly but we try to make the process as smooth as possible for our clients. While we preach to all that will listen to ensure you are properly covered for these expenses, it never fails that there are some who do not have insurance and whose lives get turned upside down in the event of a fire.

The real impact of a fire is life changing, even for those who are not financially impacted. Without insurance, or adequate limits of insurance, the costs can be crippling. The majority of fires, however, can be fully prevented by simply being more cautious and aware of your surroundings. Minor steps to prevent fires can not only save money, but also save lives.


The Importance of Understanding the Risks of Potting Soil

Potting soil on the market today contains very little real dirt – most of the time it is 85% peat moss and 15% other products (wood chips, vermiculite and polystyrene) – making it combustible.

This means that if someone uses a pot of dry potting soil as an ashtray, the cigarette butt can smoulder and cause the pot to burst into flames. The flames would melt the plastic pot and break out through the base of the planters.


Here are some tips to keep in mind to prevent a potting soil fire:

  • Provide smokers with a designated smoking area, and provide proper receptacles for cigarette disposal.
  • Advise smokers not to use any pots containing potting soil as an ashtray.
  • Maintain planters, keep plants fresh and watered and check them frequently in hot sunny dry weather.
  • Discard any dead plants in planters.
  • Do not keep potted plants near combustible materials.
  • Do not store bags of potting soil in direct sunlight and/or near any combustible materials.
  • Avoid plastic containers – use clay planter pots whenever possible, as they may keep potting soil fires better contained.


BFL CANADA’S Realty Team understands the risks faced by Corporations. In addition to protecting your investment, we offer guidance focused around claims prevention, coverage education and bylaw review to property managers, landlords and condominium boards.


Make a difference today, start planning for tomorrow.

Book your preliminary risk assessment with a BFL CANADA advisor.