The Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office investigation into Monday morning’s fire in Leesburg reveals the fire was accidental, due to the improper discarding of smoking materials into a planter.
Just after 9:30 a.m. on Monday, May 10, 2021, Loudoun County Fire and Rescue units from Lansdowne, Leesburg, Ashburn, Lucketts and Hamilton responded to a reported house fire in the 500 block of Tulip Tree Square in Leesburg. Firefighters arrived on the scene to find heavy fire and smoke showing from the rear and roof of a three-story townhome. Two residents were located safely outside upon the arrival of fire and rescue. Fire crews worked quickly to extinguish the fire on the third floor and attic and check neighboring homes for fire extension. The fire ultimately caused $310,000 in damages to the home and displaced two residents.
Fire departments across the United States respond to thousands of devastating house fires caused by the improper disposal of smoking materials and Loudoun County is no different. Since January of 2020, the Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office has investigated 240 significant fires in Loudoun County that caused $19.1 million in damages. Of the $19.1 million in damages, a staggering 2.4 million of that damage was caused by the improper disposal of smoking materials. Fortunately, on Monday, there were no injuries to firefighters or civilians but that is not always the case.
As with the incident on Tulip Tree Square, these fires often occur when cigarettes are disposed of in potted plants outside the home. Although many people think that this is a safe practice, not all dirt is the same. Today’s potting soils contain very little actual soil but instead have large volumes of combustible and flammable materials such as peat moss, shredded wood, bark, Styrofoam, and vermiculite. These ingredients ignite easily under dry conditions and once ignited, the fertilizers in the mix will accelerate the flames. The danger is compounded when these potted plants are placed on decks or porches directly next to the home. These types of fires can often smolder for hours and when enough oxygen is available, the materials will break out into flames. If the planter is located near other combustible items like a deck, side of the house or fence, they may become involved resulting in a serious fire.
For additional information on fire prevention, please visit Loudoun.gov/FireMarshal or call the Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office at 703-737-8600.