STOW, Mass. — Mulch may no longer be laid within 18 inches around buildings with combustible exteriors, such as wood or vinyl starting Saturday, according to State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan.
The regulation is in response to several Massachusetts fires that involved mulch-wood products, according to a fire marshal's office statement.
Residential buildings with fewer than six units are exempted from this regulation.
Mulch is a combustible material that can be easily ignited by improperly discarded smoking materials, according to the fire marshal's office, which added that hundreds of fires are started this way every year.
What starts as a small outside mulch fire can quickly spread to buildings and climb the exterior. The fire can get a good start before people are made aware by smoke alarms, sprinkler systems activating or someone notices, the statement said.
In April 2012, improperly discarded smoking materials ignited mulch outside an assisted living center in Braintree. The fire forced the early morning evacuation of many older adults, some of whom suffered smoke inhalation injuries, the statement said.
The new regulation also limits the size of mulch piles, requires a distance of 30 feet between piles and limits the distance from the lot line to 25 feet.
Permits are required from the fire department wherever more than 300 cubic yards of mulch is produced or stored.
The fire marshal's office is recommending that property managers and building owners take the following steps:
- Keep wood mulch 18 inches away from all building exteriors. Don't put it against the building.
- Use something like pea stone or crushed rock for the first 18 inches as a barrier around the foundation of the building.
- Provide proper receptacles for smoking materials.