In an effort to reduce the number of house fires that began as burning mulch, and to avoid a greater number of hazard insurance claims, the state of Massachusetts has enacted a new fire safety rule that went into effect on September 1st.
Specifically, Massachusetts homeowners and landscapers are now banned from using wood landscaping mulch within eighteen inches of the base of any vinyl- or wood-sided buildings. Though small residential buildings with fewer than six units are technically exempt from the ban, it is safer not to have wood mulch close to the base of any building.
This information comes from Massachusetts State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan, who says that the safest sort of groundcover to put near outside walls is crushed rock, and who reminds the owners of office buildings that providing a safe place for smokers to toss their cigarettes, such as sand-based disposal stations outside the doors of a building, will discourage them from dropping their cigarettes into the mulch at all.
The fire that led to this ban was a cigarette-sparked mulch fire at a Peabody apartment complex in 2008, which caused nearly $7 million in damage. A similar fire that occurred last April forced the evacuation of an assisted living center in Braintree, and resulted in some of the residents suffering from smoke inhalation.
While Coan didn’t explicitly advise it, we’d like to take a moment and remind everyone to review the fire portion of their homeowners policies at least once a year.