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​Could mulch catch fire and burn down a home? (4 Tips to Avoid Mulch Fires)

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​Could mulch catch fire and burn down a home? (4 Tips to Avoid Mulch Fires)

No doubt about it, mulch is an incredible asset to a forest. Just as it is for your home. 

But, did you know that there are some hidden risks that mulch poses? 

Most specifically, did you know that mulch can lead to your house catching on fire?

It's true, all compost, especially in dry-summery weather, is responsible for thousands of fires across the United States each year. 

Good news, this is preventable. 

Below are 4 tips that can ensure you are not “fanning” any flames when it comes to laying mulch.

Tip #1 - Avoid spreading too thickly

Look, when mulch is left in large heaps, steam can be produced when mixed with cooler air. This steam is created by heat that is a natural reaction caused by the decay of organic material.

Even worse, if spread too thickly when landscaping a home or business. Heat can build within the mulch, causing a fire to be ignited more easily.

To prevent this scenario, spread mulch in thin layers across the property, ideally 2-4 inches. But never more than 6”!

Proper Mulching Will:

  • Keep soil water loss at a minimum, 

  • Keep weeds under control, 

  • And keep soil temperatures low.

Improper mulching will pose a risk of catching on fire!

Tip #2- Don’t provide an accelerator

Get this, a very high percentage of mulch fires are started by people, unintentionally. 

According to Soil & Mulch Producer News. Over 25% of mulch fires can be attributed to human creation. 

To avoid this do not dispose of cigarette butts, cigars, and/or matches in these flammable areas. 

Instead, try placing a receptacle in or around designated smoking spots. To ensure that one does not accidentally ignite any mulch.

Tip #3- Water regularly

Since most mulch is dark in color, it absorbs more heat and reaches higher temperatures. 

This is especially true in the summer months. And during these times mulch can get very dry and enter a more flammable state. 

To combat this concern, water your mulch when you water your plants. This can help keep moisture in the mulch at an ideal level and keep inner temperatures at a lower, safer state.

Consider This! Although many people prefer dark mulches, choosing a light color can prevent mulch from catching on fire. This is especially important if you live in a hot dry area. 

Tip #4- Give it space

Finally, mulching around or up against a building or home can increase the chances of causing any damage to a property, if a mulch fire occurs. 

If at all possible, provide a minimum of 18-inches of clearance between landscaping mulch and any building and/or materials that are combustible.

Other Accelerants Include:

  • Pesticides,

  • Dead bushes, 

  • Gas cans, 

  • And fertilizers.

Additionally, keep space between any electrical devices, such as Christmas lights or decorative lit ornaments, 

Consider Surrounding Your Home With a Barrier

Finally, as an extra precaution. Try adding a 10-20 inch strip of decorative river rock around the home's structure. This can create a beneficial barrier; almost like a firewall between the home and the mulch. 

As an added bonus, rock barriers also protect the property from rot and mold that can accumulate from years of decomposing mulch.

The Importance of Mulch in Nature and Your Landscape

When taking a leisurely stroll in the woods, one is normally not surprised to see pine needles, leaves, and bark. However, the purpose of these elements is not as obvious as one might suspect. 

Mother Nature protects herself with these natural coverings. After all, organic mulch is one of the ways the forest’s eco-system maintains growth and prosperity.

Similarly, landscaping mulch is environmentally friendly. Furthermore, it has been a staple in landscaping for homeowners across the country.

Mulch not only adds curb appeal to a home. But proper mulching also can help prevent water loss to the soil by halting evaporation, diminishing the infestation of weeds, and enriching the soil as it decomposes.


The Bottom Line 

Mulch is a part of the American landscape. In fact, it is rarer to see a home without mulch than it is with mulch. 

But, since most mulch is created from organic materials such as wood chips, leaves, and/or bark chips, it is certainly flammable. 

On the other hand, organic fertilizer instantly adds a certain visual upgrade to a property and offers a great way to nurture trees, plants, and shrubs. 

Even though the probability of mulch fires is relatively low, there is always a safety concern when it comes to any burnable material.

By following these tips, however, a homeowner can rest assured that decorative mulch is there for aesthetic and nurturing reasons only—and as a flammable material just waiting for ignition. 

Looking for something else to read? How about this: Learn How To Measure Mulch.

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