Dangerous Fire Ignited by Sunshine, Summer Heat and Dog Waste

Approximately 75 million dogs live with their owners throughout the U.S. So it’s a wonder that this fire hazard hasn’t grown more widespread, especially during periods of high summer heat and intense mid-day sunlight. Who among us would think twice about tossing collected dog waste in a cardboard carton? This homeowner recently moved into their new home and had collected simple yard waste – dried grass clippings, tree branches and sticks picked up from their yard – plus left over fertilizer. Easy storage was at hand in a leftover moving box sitting by a garage exterior wall. As days went by before trash day, daily dog waste was added to the box as well. The carton, sitting in direct, strong summer sunshine, enabled spontaneous combustion, igniting the carton’s contents. At first the contents smoldered, then it sparked to a flame, and within a short time flared to catch the carton and the home’s siding on fire.

The homeowner and family, including their dog, were not injured. The house suffered $9,200 in damages. Both exterior and interior fire and smoke damage was covered by the homeowner’s Nationwide Insurance coverage. Paul Davis was hired to mediate the damage and repair siding and interior areas.

When storing and disposing of yard waste, leftover gardening and lawn fertilizers, pet waste or other flammable materials, always use a container suitable for the purpose. Using metal rather than polypropylene trashcans, corrugated boxes, or plastic or craft bags will likely avoid this type of spontaneous combustion. In this instance, the white siding on the home reflected directly to the carton and it is believed that this increased temperature within the carton.