Mulch fires on the rise, fire officials offer precautions

Mulch fires on the rise, fire officials offer precautions

ELIZABETHTOWN, KY (WAVE) - The Elizabethtown Fire Department (EPD) warned the public on Wednesday about the dangers of carelessly discarding smoking materials after numerous fires involving mulch.

One such fire destroyed the McDonald's on N. Dixie Avenue in Elizabethtown on June 16. A Tumbleweed Tex Mex Grill & Margarita Bar adjacent to the McDonald's sustained moderate damage on June 20. Although investigators aren't 100 percent sure of the cause of that fire, careless smoking outside the building is one possibility.

According to a news release from EPD, the volatility of mulch increases during periods of high heat, wind and minimal rain because it dries out quickly both on top and underneath. Also, additional heat is generated in mulch because of composting of materials beneath the surface. Dry, hot mulch can create a significant fire hazard, EPD warned.

+ Fire officials: Cigarette tossed into mulch caused McDonald's fire
+ IMAGES: Fire destroys Elizabethtown McDonald's
+ Tumbleweed catches fire in Elizabethtown
+ Cigarette tossed in mulch suspected of causing fire at Muldraugh DQ

Firefighters in Elizabethtown recommend the following precautions to ensure the safe use of mulch in landscaping:

  • Leave a safety zone of 18 to 24" between mulch and buildings or other combustible materials. Pea gravel or other landscaping rock should be used to fill the gap between mulch and buildings.
  • Remove old mulch before applying new mulch.
  • Keep the depth of mulch between 2 and 4"
  • Keep mulch beds moist, especially during extended hot and dry weather conditions.
  • Do not smoke around or discard smoking materials in a mulch bed.
  • Place proper smoking receptacles at least two feet away from mulch beds and buildings at locations with public access. Butt cans or other receptacles placed at ground level near buildings or mulch are targets that can be easily missed.
  • If smoke or flames rise from a mulch bed, call 911 immediately and work to extinguish the fire. Stomping or using a multi-purpose dry chemical fire extinguisher will not fully extinguish a mulch fire. The burned or burning area must be raked and doused thoroughly with water to fully extinguish the fire.

"Carelessly discarded smoking materials and dry mulch are extreme fire hazards," the release states. "Not only can expensive landscaping and decorative plants be destroyed by discarded smoking materials, but buildings, home and businesses and even lives can be lost as well. Please do your part in preventing fires!"

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