Photo of bark mulch.
Photo courtesy of photos-public-domain.com

The Board of Fire Prevention Regulations (BFPR) has regulations on mulch wood projects developed in response to significant fires in the Commonwealth. Fire officials 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

527 CMR 1.00 Regulates Mulch
527 CMR 1, section 10.14.10.4  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 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. 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 at entrances to buildings (place at least 18: away from the building) and in designated smoking areas. Empty regularly and do not mulch these areas.
  • Train maintenance staff to be watch for mulch fires especially when conditions are most favorable for these fires (when mulch is fresh or weather is very hot and dry or windy).

The MA Department of Public Health has information for landlords and property owners on making your property smoke-free on their Let’s Make Smoking History webpage.

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