Spring is the traditional time for sprucing up landscaping around our buildings and this spring will be the first one with a new mulch fire safety regulation in effect. The regulation was developed in response to several significant fires in the Commonwealth involving mulch-wood products. State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan and fire chiefs across the state want to alert landscaping companies, nurseries, building owners and managers about the proper placement and storage of mulch in order to prevent fires.
Revised Regulation Has New Mulch Safety Provision
The revised regulation, 527 CMR 17 , took effect in September 2012 and prohibits the new application of mulch within 18” around combustible exteriors of buildings, such as wood or vinyl but not brick or concrete.
Residential buildings with six units or less are exempted from this regulation, but all homeowners may also wish to adopt these safety practices. The regulation applies to all other buildings including commercial properties.
Storage and Manufacturing of Mulch
The revised regulation also has safety requirements for those who store or manufacture mulch. It limits the size of mulch piles and requires a distance of 30-feet between piles and 25-feet from the lot line. Large piles of mulch can easily spontaneously combust with all the heat they generate, so it’s important to be vigilant and employ good housekeeping. The distance between piles prevents a fire in one from easily spreading to another or to a building.
Permits Required to Store 300+ Cubic Yards of Mulch
Permits are required from the fire department wherever more than 300 cubic yards of mulch is produced or stored.
Tips for Landscapers, Property Managers and Building Owners
Here are some tips for property managers and building owners on how to prevent mulch fires:
- Keep wood mulch 18” away from combustible exteriors of buildings such as wood or vinyl siding. Don’t put it right up against the building.
- Use materials such as pea stone or crushed rock for the first 18” as a barrier around the foundation of the building.
- Provide proper receptacles for smoking materials.