Mulch Fire Safety
As the weather begins to grow warmer, more and more residents and businesses will begin their seasonal landscaping projects. One of the most popular tasks is the laying of fresh mulch in garden beds, building borders, outdoor play areas, and decorative barriers and dividers. Mulch comes in many forms, from pine needles and grass or hay, to wood chips and shavings, to recycled, shredded rubber. Numerous independent tests conducted in the past several years have demonstrated that all types of mulch are flammable, though some burn more rapidly and fiercely than others. Across the country, thousands of mulch fires are reported to local fire departments every year, and discarded smoking materials account for nearly half of those fires, according to the NFPA.
In order to protect your homes and businesses, the following steps should be taken when planning for your seasonal mulch placement:
– Keep a minimum of 18 inches between any mulch bed and combustible building materials (such as siding, fences, and decking); this space can be filled with decorative gravel, pavers, or other non-flammable materials
– Mulch should be kept moist when possible, given weather conditions and water availability
– Dispose of smoking materials in a metal or other non-combustible container; extinguish all smoking materials in sand or water prior to disposal
– Use caution when burning in an outdoor fireplace or fire pit; hot embers or ashes can travel and ignite remote mulch beds
– Shredded rubber and shredded red cedar mulches are extremely flammable and should not be used within 30 feet of any building
– Large piles of mulch can spontaneously combust; monitor internal temperature if any large piles will be on your property for an extended period of time
Visit the NFPA’s project Firewise for more information on keeping your home and landscaping fire safe.
Sources: Brush, Grass, and Forest Fires, NFPA Fire Analysis and Research, August 2010
The Combustibility of Landscape Mulches, U. of Nevada Cooperative Extension, 2011