Beware: Mulch can spawn fire
City firemen called to four 'hot' beds Beware: Mulch can spawn fire BY JENNIFER TODD, Staff Writer
Each spring many people look to fresh mulch to dress up a weary winter flower bed.
But that decorative garden feature also might be a safety hazard.
Warm, breezy days, cool nights and a lack of rainfall -- as the area has seen recently -- can spawn spontaneous fires in the mostly wood debris.
"It's that time of year -- spring fire season," Lancaster city fire Capt. David Longenecker said.
On Sunday, city units were called to at least four reported mulch fires.
Longenecker said he expects such a pattern to continue for several weeks.
"It's a consistent cycle," he said. "The conditions in early spring are perfect for this sort of thing."
To reduce the risk of overheated mulch, Longenecker suggests residents water down mulch each evening after the sun goes down.
"It gives the water an opportunity to settle in overnight before the sun dries it out the next day," Longenecker said. "It's not a hard and fast science but it's definitely something people can do to try to retain some moisture."
But weather alone isn't the culprit.
With fresh mulch also spread at this time of year outside many commerical properties, discarded cigarettes also are to blame.
"People walking into a mall will just flick their cigarette before they walk in the door," Longenecker said. "With most mulch made from wood chips, obviously that creates a fire hazard, especially if it's already warm and dry outside."
He said most mulch fires result in little dollar loss.
"Obviously if it spreads to shrubbery or a home, that's when we can see much more damage," Longenecker said.
Forestry officials recommend mulch beds to be a minimum of 18 inches from a structure.
If you see smoldering mulch, douse it with water or try to clear unburned material away from the heat source, officials said.