Mulch can provide fuel to unintended fires

Massachusetts

STOW, Mass. (WWLP) – The State Fire Marshal’s office is reminding homeowners, property managers, landscapers and nurseries to be aware of the dangers of mulch fires.

According to the U.S. Drought monitor, Massachusetts is officially in Level 1 drought conditions, increasing the possibility for brush and mulch fires. The Fire Marshal reports from 2016 – 2020 there have been 199 fires that started in mulch and spread to buildings. These 199 fires caused five civilian injuries, 10 fire service injuries and an estimated dollar loss of $3.1 million.

State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said, “Every spring, people spruce up their properties with fresh mulch and firefighters respond to many fires started by cigarettes tossed into mulch. Mulch is combustible and can easily catch fire.” He added, “We are asking smokers to dispose of their smoking materials responsibly in order to prevent fires. Don’t toss cigarette butts into mulch or a pile of dried leaves. Businesses and homeowners that are sprucing up their landscaping should also provide and maintain safe receptacles for disposing of smoking materials so that people won’t start fires by tossing cigarettes into the mulch. Metal containers with sand are best,” he said.

Ostroskey also reminds building owners, property managers, nurseries and landscaping companies about the proper placement and storage of mulch in order to prevent these types of fires. Fire in a mulch bed can smolder for hours before erupting into flames. Early detection can prevent a large fire. He suggests calling 911 if you see mulch smoldering.

He also provides these tips on how to prevent mulch fires:

  • Keep wood mulch 18 inches away from combustible exteriors of buildings such as wood or vinyl siding and decks. Do not put it right up against the building.
  • Use materials such as pea stone or crushed rock for the first 18 inches as a barrier around the foundation of the building and around gas and electrical meters.
  • Provide proper receptacles for smoking material disposal.
  • Mulch storage piles should be 30 feet apart to keep fires from spreading. 

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