Home > City Hall > Protective Services > Fire & Rescue > Fire Prevention > Dangers of landscape mulch
Protective Services

Dangers of landscape mulch

Bark mulch, commonly used as ground cover, can become a fire hazard in hot and dry conditions.

In 2010, the fire department has seen a significant increase in the number of fires occurring in landscaping mulch, which are particularly dangerous due to how close they often are to homes and businesses. Fires starting in landscaping mulch can spread into shrubbery and then to the building.

Below average rainfall, warm temperatures, extremely dry conditions and abnormal winds all increase the risk of serious damage from mulch fires. Another factor is smoking – most smokers are outside due to laws and facility policies. Cigarettes, cigars and matches discarded into landscaped areas could start a fire.

Reduce the risk of fire – follow these guidelines:

  • If you smoke, use the provided receptacles to discard your smoking material and matches.
  • Provide a minimum of an 18-inch clearance between landscaping mulch beds and combustible building materials. Ensure proper clearance to electric devices, such as decorative lights, by following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Keep landscaping mulch beds moist if possible.
  • If you see anything smoking in a landscaped bed, put it out if you can and report it to someone inside the building. If the burning material is not thoroughly wet or removed, it may re-ignite.
  • Grounds maintenance crews should be aware of the conditions that are favorable for mulch fires and increase surveillance of mulch beds in the afternoon when fires are more likely to occur.
  • Provide proper receptacles for smoking materials at all entrances to public buildings and in designated smoking areas. Do not use mulch in or near these areas.

Remember: hot and dry conditions in the summer months may create the ideal condition for a fire. Protect your property – keep your mulch moist.

The Saint John Fire Department wants citizens to be aware of the danger posed by mulch used in landscaping. Bark mulch, commonly used as ground cover, can become a fire hazard in hot and dry conditions.

The fire department has seen a significant increase in the number of fires occurring in landscaping mulch, which are particularly dangerous due to how close they often are to homes and businesses. Fires starting in landscaping mulch can spread into shrubbery and then to the building.

Below average rainfall, warm temperatures, extremely dry conditions and abnormal winds all increase the risk of serious damage from mulch fires. Another factor is smoking – most smokers are outside due to laws and facility policies. Cigarettes, cigars and matches discarded into landscaped areas could start a fire.

Reduce the risk of fire – follow these guidelines:

  • If you smoke, use the provided receptacles to discard your smoking material and matches.
  • Provide a minimum of an 18-inch clearance between landscaping mulch beds and combustible building materials. Ensure proper clearance to electric devices, such as decorative lights, by following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Keep landscaping mulch beds moist if possible.
  • If you see anything smoking in a landscaped bed, put it out if you can and report it to someone inside the building. If the burning material is not thoroughly wet or removed, it may re-ignite.
  • Grounds maintenance crews should be aware of the conditions that are favorable for mulch fires and increase surveillance of mulch beds in the afternoon when fires are more likely to occur.
  • Provide proper receptacles for smoking materials at all entrances to public buildings and in designated smoking areas. Do not use mulch in or near these areas.

Remember: hot and dry conditions in the summer months may create the ideal condition for a fire. Protect your property – keep your mulch moist.