Mulch Fires in Marlboro

In the past few weeks, the Robertsville Fire Company has responded to nearly 10 reported mulch fires in our response area. We would like to share with you some information about Fire Prevention on the topic of mulch:

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(July 2, 2014 Mulch Fire in Marlboro Commons adjacent to Ethan Allen. Mulch burns beneath the surface first before extending to fence)


Many people who live and work in Marlboro and other areas take great pride in their landscape decorating. Residents beautify their homes and businesses with scenic floral arrangements and the outward appearance of their buildings and homes is very important to them. Commonly applied after shrubs and ground covers are planted in the landscape, mulches are chosen for aesthetic appeal, color, price, organic content, nutrient content, weed reduction, dust abatement, and soil moisture retention. Regardless of which mulch is used, taking precautions can prevent mulch fires.

Thousands of mulch fires are reported annually in every state.  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.  Often, burning mulch is up against the side of a residential or commercial structure, where it can go 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 is a significant increase in mulch fires in areas that have 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.


To reduce the potential for a fire in landscaping mulch, follow these guidelines:

  • Recognize that when the weather is hot and there has been little or no rain for an extended time, mulch fires can start more readily.
  • Provide approved receptacles for smoking materials at all entrances to public and residential buildings, and in designated smoking areas. Do not use mulch in or near these areas.
  • Provide a minimum 18-inch clearance between landscaped mulch beds and combustible building materials (i.e. FENCES).
  • Provide proper clearance for electric devices such as decorative lights by following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Keep landscaped mulch beds moist, if possible.
  • Use noncombustible mulch such as rock or pea gravel around the gas meter and next to the combustible portions of the structure.
  • Use only the manufacturer’s recommended size/wattage for yard light bulbs.
  • Use only electrical devices and cords listed for outdoor use, and follow the manufacturer’s specifications.
  • Consider replacing landscaping mulch with decorative stone.