You know those fluffy white things that have been floating around town the past month? Well, those annoying little catkins were responsible for half of the fires in Beijing in April.
According to the Beijing fire department, 686 fires were reported in the capital last month, and 346 of those blazes were catkin related, Xinhua reports.
It turns out that catkins are highly flammable, and they cause fires to spread really quickly.
The worst recent catkin-related fire occurred earlier this week. At least 90 vehicles – including 12 tourist buses – were destroyed after a fire broke out in a parking lot near the Xiedao Holiday Resort in Chaoyang on Monday. Fifty fire engines were dispatched to put out the blaze. Luckily no one was injured.
While the cause of the fire is still unknown, it is believed that the high amount of catkins that had gathered in the area caused a fireworks-related fire to get out of control – and fast.
On Tuesday, Beijing officials organized teams of workers to help clean up the massive amount of catkins that have accumulated around the city. On Monday and Tuesday, 400 fire trucks and 300 water trucks sprayed 8,750 tons of water around the most catkin-concentrated areas of Beijing in order to keep those flammable balls of fluff from taking flight.
But the recent rash of catkin-triggered fires isn’t surprising. During Beijing’s annual catkin phenomenon – often referred to as ‘April snow’ – there is historically a major increase in fires in the capital.
In May 2013, at least 105 fires broke out in a single week. Catkins were involved in every single one. In one case a woman had the brilliant idea of lighting a bunch of catkins on fire and accidentally burned down a bus and two cars.
Moral of the story is: don’t light the catkins on fire.