Toronto Fire Services recorded 114 smoking-related fires in 2017. Over half started on balconies. This year, up to Aug 7, 25 of 54 smoking-related fires have been on balconies.
High-rise residents and guests may smoke on a balcony to help keep the home smoke-free. They throw cigarettes off the balcony assuming they land on the street. Wind catches the cigarette and it ends up on another balcony; on a cushioned chair, in a planter, or other flammable item that ignites. This is how many high-rise fires are presumed to start.
Today there is a proliferation of plastic and foam material used in place of natural material. Most of these products are petroleum based and can ignite when heated. Potting soils used with plants can contain peat moss which is flammable when dry. Dead plant material falling off a plant is also flammable.
What we are seeing in balcony fires is modern materials set aflame or damaged because of the carelessness of smokers. Condo communities will post signs reminding residents and guests not to put cigarette butts in plants or discard them off balconies. Frequently these signs are ignored.
With cannabis now legal, fire departments across Canada are anticipating an increase in high-rise building fires. Condo communities that have chosen to prohibit smoking of all types on the property are at less risk of fire.