Discarded cigarette in flower pot displaces several families in - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Discarded cigarette in flower pot displaces several families in condo blaze

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Fire investigators were able to tell exactly what caused a two-alarm fire at the Island Green Condos Friday evening.

According to Horry County Fire Investigator Doug Wilson, the fire that damaged at least 10 units was the result of someone dropping a cigarette butt in a flower pot.

Wilson explained, "A cigarette was disposed of in a flower pot which was sitting on the second floor deck area of the condo building - this was done several hours prior to the fire being reported."

The fire at the Island Green Condos in the Burgess community just after 7:30 p.m. Friday evening left at least nine people and two families displaced, according to Red Cross officials. 

Wilson said HCFR handles several fires that involve displaced cigarette butts in flower pots several times a year. He warns people of the dangers it poses. 

Wilson showed WMBF News what happens when a pot is left unattended for hours with a lit cigarette. 

"I put a lit cigarette into this flower pot that contained dry peat moss and it's been just a little over an hour, and you can see the cigarette has ignited and has entered into a smoldering stage."

Wilson said the inside of the pot was between 900 to 1,100 degrees. He said the lit end of a cigarette is 750 degrees, and explains that is more than enough heat to start a smoldering fire that can combust and ignite a flame.

"It went it to a smoldering, melting stage and then into a combustion stage to where we had a free-burning fire just outside the apartment door," said Wilson, describing the condo fire. 

Wilson said any time of dry material in a flower pot, like peat moss, potting soil, any material that's used for planting and for hanging plants, is not safe to discard cigarettes in. 

"If you have to smoke outside you get a metal pot or metal bucket, fill it with sand, and butt your cigarettes out in the sand, and change clean it regularly, take the old cigarettes out and then continue to use it," he stresses.

Wilson said residents should also watch where those containers for discarded cigarettes are kept because if near flammable or combustible materials, like furniture and wooden decks it can make a fire spread faster. 

Some residents were not happy to hear a simple mistake what the cause of the destruction that left several families without a home. 

One resident said the fire was unfortunate incident, but it also serves as a valuable lesson. 

"I think it also awakens everyone in the community, especially when you live in condos and two-floor apartments it's very imperative to not only think about yourself, but think about your other neighbors, something so simple, can cause so much destruction," said Cynthia Fuerte, a resident who also went to alert residents of the fire in her community. 

Copyright 2015 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

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