Did You Know? The Incendiary Dangers of Early Spring Mulching
As many Westonians know, April 7 was a terrible day for fire–one Weston home was damaged beyond repair with a four-alarm fire (no physical injuries to residents or firefighters, though certainly emotional ones) and one southside neighborhood suffered a major brushfire. Without spending enough time on it, there is much appreciation for the Weston Fire Department as well as the other departments which responded (those are listed at the end of this story–endless gratitude).
The Lincoln Squirrel reported on the fire at the North Avenue house (subscription-only, please support local media), which according to the Lincoln fire chief started in the mulch outside the front door and then spread under the eaves and into the rafters of the home. The house’s flower beds had recently been mulched for spring. And then it was a Red Flag day, which is the very worst of conditions with super low humidity and high winds.
Then this morning the Owl caught a story of the Maynard fire yesterday that again started in mulch and was fanned by winds, causing a senior living home to burst into flames. There were two minor injuries to a resident and to a firefighter. All residents of the facility are displaced. Yesterday was a Red Flag day. Today, incidentally, has now been denoted as a red flag day. Skip the open burn and the mulching today.
So, what’s the deal with the mulch? The Owl sent a note over to Weston Fire Chief Justin Woodside (go ‘cats!) to ask what’s going on. And got a quick answer about the risks of mulch, and the importance of getting the word out:
When asked if mulching was an issue in fires, Chief Woodside responded “YES!! A hundred percent! Mulch is dangerous specifically in the spring during dry conditions prior to “green-up.”
The Chief sent on this link from Mass.gov about Mulch Fire Safety. If you absolutely must mulch, following these safety precautions and not smoking or “fire-pitting” in the vicinity will help. Or just wait for “green-up” and spring rains.
Here, for the data folks, are the 2022 numbers from the same Mass.gov link: “Including preliminary data from 2021, there have been more than 400 fires in the past 10 years that started in mulch but spread to buildings. These fires caused five civilian injuries, 30 fire service injuries, two civilian deaths, and almost $15 million in damages.”
Consider letting the garden beds go for now. You’ll have plenty of time to pretty them up later.
Stay safe, Weston!
In addition to appreciation for Weston’s own firefighters, the following towns came out to help in the four-alarm house fire: Lincoln, Waltham, Newton, Wayland, Wellesley, Sudbury, Needham, Lexington, and Framingham. For the brush fire, thank you to Natick which came out to help out and to the following communities who covered for other calls during that effort: Watertown, Somerville and Belmont. You all so completely ROCK!
Thanks! Did not know the early season hazard posed by mulch.