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Did you know there are thousands of mulch fires in the US each year?

It’s not the most likely source of fire many of us would think but a lot of the mulch used in landscaping is flammable.

The chance of mulch catching fire varies from those that are highly flammable to those that aren’t flammable at all and others which fall in-between.

Highly flammable mulches include: shredded pine and cedar, rubber mulch, Cyprus bark and any bark made from oily rich wood.

Fire resistant mulches include: Cocoa shells rock and pea gravel, shredded hard wood.


Composted bark chips

Organic bark chips are among the best choice from the most commonly used mulch types.  They are more fire resistant and fires tend to spread slower and less intensively, more like a smolder.


Prevention of a mulch fire

A few simple practices can help to reduce the chance of your mulch catching fire.


1. Water your mulch

Keeping your mulch moist helps to prevent fire in a number of ways.  Dry mulch is more likely to catch fire so you should water your mulch regularly to keep it moist.  Doing this helps the mulch from getting too hot since the water absorbs heat.


2. Spread thinly

Too much mulch piled on-top of itself is more likely to catch fire and smoke as heat is generated more easily.  Thick piles can in some cases spontaneously combust during hot and dry weather.

Spread your mulch as evenly as possible, a good depth is 2-3 inches.

Use a mulch blowing service to help provide an even accurate spread of your landscape mulch.


3. Spread away from buildings

Mulch that spreads right up to a building can become an increased risk factor.  It’s best to leave a gap of at least 18 inches between mulch and buildings.  Consider a border of fire-resistant peastone or other decorative stones closer to the building as an alternative; it’ll still look good and allow you to make use of the landscaping benefits of mulch.


4. Limit your piles

The larger the pile the greater the risk of fire.  When storing mulch it’s best to limit the pile to within a few feet tall.  Turn it regularly as well to release and built-up heat.


Why do mulch fires start?

Most mulch fires start unintentionally.  Cigarettes are a big risk factor but weather can be a problem too.  Extremely dry or hot periods can lead to spontaneous combustion in mulch piles so at these times it’s important to be aware of keeping the mulch moist and cool by turning it over.


Mulch is a convenient, inexpensive solution to add decoration and practicality to landscape gardening.  Mulch fires are rare, but they do happen.  Being aware of the possibility of fire and being quick to act in event of one will put you in a mulch safer position in the unlikely event.

If you would like to discuss the best mulch options for your home or business landscape visit Superior Stone & Fireplace.


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