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Is Mulch a Fire Risk?

One question that often gets asked is about the fire risk mulch can pose when you place it around your home. Mulch fires are extremely rare but they do occur. We’ll walk through the recent history of mulch fires, talk about how mulch fires start and lay out some tips to reduce your fire risk.

There is a History of Mulch Catching Fire

While mulch fires are rare, there have been a few extreme cases that have made the news in the last twenty years. Safety Insurance provided the following list of fires attributed to mulch:

  • May 2008 – $6.7 million dollar fire to the Peabody Apartment complex
  • April 2012 – Fire outside of an assisted living facility that forced people to evacuate early in the morning.
  • May 2015 – Large apartment fire outside of an Arlington, Massachusets apartment complex where both cars and apartment buildings will be destroyed.

In each case, the fire was started by lit cigarettes being improperly disposed of.

How Mulch Fires Start

The highest risk of fire is when the weather is hot and dry. When summer starts and temperatures rise, keep an eye on the amount of rain you’re getting. Below are other sources of mulch fire:

  1. Cigarettes are the biggest source of mulch fires.
  2. If mulch heats up and then gets shuffled under the surface, fires can start.
  3. Mulch piled too deeply builds heat and can catch fire.

Thankfully each of these sources of fire is easy to avoid with a few simple changes to your landscaping.

Tips to Avoid the Risk of Mulch Catching Fire

If you follow the following tips you should greatly reduce your risk of fire:

  • Make sure to spread your mulch out and not pile it up too thick.
  • Leave some space, about 12-18 inches, between your mulch and your foundation. That buffer zone will help keep your home protected.
  • If you are landscaping a public area, or are a smoker, provide safe receptacles for cigarette butts. Education and disposal areas for cigarettes can keep them out of your landscaping and protect you from potential fire.
  • When the weather gets hot and you haven’t had any rain, think about watering down your mulch to reduce any built up heat.

Thankfully fires started in mulch is relatively easy to avoid and really rare. It’s important to note that switching to an alternative for wood mulch like rubber, will not necessarily reduce the risk of fire (rubber mulch is also flammable). Landscaping material like rock or stone is really your only fireproof option.

If you have any questions about wood mulch and landscaping materials, feel free to give us a call. We can provide you with tips and tricks that will make your garden beds look great and give you peace of mind.

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