With the arrival of Spring, we thought it would be a good time to remind property owners about safety issues when sprucing up their landscaping and applying fresh mulch. Mulch is combustible, and every year there are hundreds of small and large fires that are started by improperly discarded smoking materials igniting mulch. Mulch fires often can be well underway before they are noticed, which creates the big risk that a small outdoor mulch fire can quickly spread to buildings. In recent Massachusetts history, there have been a number of large apartment fires that have resulted in loss of life and multi-million dollar property losses not to mention hundreds of people being displaced and losing their possessions. Yet, it doesn't have to be a huge fire to be important. If it was your home that was lost due to a mulch fire that would be tragic.
Regulation on Mulch Safety
In Massachusetts, safe use of mulch is regulated through 527 CMR 1.00, section 10.14.10.4. The regulation prohibits new application of mulch within 18" around combustible exteriors of buildings, such as wood or vinyl, but not brick or concrete. The regulations apply to all commercial properties and residential buildings with more than six units. However, while residential properties with six or less units are exempt, it is smart for all homeowners to adopt these practices for safety. Having your grounds look their best is admirable, but no one wants to their beautification efforts be the reason that their property goes up in flames.
Tips for Property Managers, Building Owners & Landscapers
- Provide a minimum of an 18-inch clearance between landscape mulch beds and combustible building materials, such as wood, vinyl siding and decks.
- Use non-combustible mulch such as rock or pea stone around gas meters and combustible portions of the structure.
- Provide proper receptacles for smoking materials at all entrances to public buildings and in designated smoking areas. Place them at least 18" away from the building, do not mulch in these areas and remember to regularly empty smoking receptacles.
- Grounds and maintenance crews should be aware when conditions are favorable for mulch fires and increase surveillance of mulch beds.
- Keep mulch beds moist when possible.
By following these tips, you can help to reduce mulch fire risks. So, whether you mulch for aesthetics or more as a way of keeping down weeds, we hope you enjoy the spring and may all the plantings on your property grow and bloom with vigor. Happy mulching.