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Published April 8, 2016


In 2012, a regulation was introduced in response to several fires in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts involving mulch-wood products. The most notable fire occurred at a Peabody apartment complex in May 2008. A cigarette-lit mulch fire caused a $6.7 million loss, displaced 750 people temporarily, and 36 residents of the apartments permanently.

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 suffering smoke inhalation injuries.

Although this regulation (527 CMR: Board of Fire Prevention Regulations 17.00) was made effective on September 1, 2012, many building owners and/or property managers are not aware of it. Many find out about the law when they receive a notification from their property and casualty insurance underwriter.

According to the regulation, the new application of mulch within 18 inches around combustible exteriors of buildings (such as wood or vinyl, but not brick or concrete) is prohibited. Residential buildings with less than six units are exempt from this regulation, but homeowners may wish to adopt these safety practices.

Here are some tips for property managers and building owners on how to prevent mulch fires:

  1. Keep wood mulch 18 inches away from combustible exteriors of buildings, such as wood or vinyl siding. Don’t apply mulch right up against the building.
  2. Use something like pea stone or crushed rock for the first 18 inches as a barrier around the foundation of the building.
  3. Provide proper receptacles for smoking materials.

Although mulch safety is not our specialty, we do provide fire protection system services to our clients, including maintenance, testing, modifications to existing systems and new system installations. We are your piping solutions provider. Contact us today at 508.644.2221 and visit our website at www.PipingSystemsIns.com.