Thousands of mulch fires are reported annually in every state. The Johnson City (TN) Fire Department has its share of mulch fires, averaging 100 per year. Mulch fires occur year-round but primarily in the summer when there is little rainfall. As a result, vegetation and landscaping materials become dried out, allowing for easy ignition. Mulch fires have caused extensive damage to structures and woodlands in and around Johnson City.

Our department is frequently called out to extinguish smoldering fires in bark mulch. Often, this burning mulch is up against the side of a residential or commercial structure, where it is likely to be unnoticed. This burning/smoldering mulch may eventually ignite the underneath of the siding and then spread into the structural components of the building and cause extensive damage.

Factors such as below-average rainfall, extremely dry conditions, warm temperatures, and abnormal winds increase the risk of serious damage from mulch fires. There has been a significant increase in mulch fires in northeast Tennessee over the past several years because of drought-like conditions. Another key factor in the increase of mulch fires has been the prohibitions on smoking indoors enacted by state/local governments and private businesses. Cigarette and cigar smokers often discard lighted smoking materials, including matches, into the landscaped areas as they enter buildings, which has been the cause of ignition for many mulch fires…read more

A great article written to raise safety awareness when tending to non fire resistant mulches published by Fire Engineering

Mark J. Finucane. “Combating and Preventing Mulch Fires.” Fire Engineering Magazine, 03/01/2008. Accessed August 17th 2012

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