SARANAC, Mich. (WOOD) — Jenny Kodat says her 11-year-old child noticed smoke coming from the back deck of their home Sunday afternoon.
When Kodat searched for the source, she found the potted tomato plant that’s been sitting on her deck since June was on fire.
“The pot was completely burned. And this was on fire and so was my wall,” said Kodat, pointing to the remnants of a plastic pot and melted siding on her home.
“(It was) very scary. It could have burned my house down with my kids inside or when I was gone and my dog (was) inside,” she said.
Kodat bought the plant from a big box store.
It’s been on the deck ever since, moved only to take advantage of sunlight and shade.
Kodat says she didn’t add any additional fertilizer or chemicals to it.
“I didn’t do anything to it besides water it. Whatever was in it was already in it,” she said.
In 2010, a similar incident in Arkansas was blamed on a decaying plant giving off enough heat to start a fire.
But Kodat’s plant actually had a tomato on the vine.
So should growers panic and pitch their house plants because of a fire risk? Probably not.
Experts say plant fires can happen, but only under extreme conditions.
According to gardenmyths.com, storebought plants don’t come with much real dirt; most of what’s in the pot is peat moss.
Peat moss can burn, but usually not on its own. It requires an ignition source, like someone using the plant to snuff out a cigarette.
Citing a University of Toronto study, the website says the moss would have to reach 500 degrees for spontaneous combustion to occur.
Which deepens the mystery into what happened to Kodat’s tomato plant. There was no heat or electrical source near the plant, and no one in the house smokes. Nothing that would easily explain why the plant caught fire, but it did.
Kodat wants the get the word out, no matter how slim the chances are of it happening again.
“(It was) too close, too close. It was very scary,” said Kodat. “(It was) very, very scary.”