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Can pine straw used as mulch in planting beds pose a fire hazard?

Merton Vance

There is nothing in local fire codes that prevents using pine straw as mulch, but fire officials recommend not using it close to buildings because it can dry out and become a fire risk that could set a structure on fire.

“We recommend you put non-combustible materials, such as decorative rock,” said Battalion Chief Herman Born of the Wilmington Fire Department Division of Fire and Life Safety.

Other types of wood mulch can also ignite, so it should be kept moist, he said.

Born said the department has seen about half a dozen fires recently that resulted in substantial damage from fires that started in pine straw mulch beds. Stray cigarettes and embers from grills are common ignition sources.

Some cities in North Carolina have enacted ordinances that restrict the use of combustible mulch close to buildings, and Born said the idea has been under discussion here.

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One Response to “ Can pine straw used as mulch in planting beds pose a fire hazard?”

  1. On October 14, 2009 at 9:36 pm Jim O'Connor wrote:

    As Chairman of NC’s 1st Firewise Community (since 2003) I believe I can make a comment with some knowledge………… ( There are 14 Firewise Communities currently in NC and almost 500 nationwide)

    Pine straw, dry bark & other flammable materials should not be used as mulch up against the foundation of a home. These materials can be ignited by a burning ember from a wildfire. If the mulch starts to burn and further ignites plants or bushes also located at the foundation the flames may get into the eaves (mostly PVC plastic) they willmelt and allow sparks to get intp the attic and roof area of the home. Non flammable materials should be used along the foundation. Remember that shrubs and small trees will grow over the years and have a potential to be a “ladder fuel” that can cause a fire in your attic.

    Check info on “survivable space” at firewise.org.

    Jim O’Connor
    River Run Plantation

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