Hot, Windy Conditions Lead to Mulch Fire Epidemic

Friday, May 25, 2012 - 2:54am

City of Madison firefighters responded to 10 outside fires yesterday, many of them fanned by high winds yesterday afternoon. Eight of those fires occurred between 2 and 7 p.m. Most of those involved smoldering mulch.

In several cases, cigarette butts were found at the scene. One of the more dramatic examples of wind-whipped conditions was at Pet's Mart parking lot at 2216 East Springs Dr.

When Engine Company 8 arrived at the scene, firefighters observed 5 islands in the parking lot with mulch on fire.

Crews said the fires appeared to have started accidentally on one island and were spread to the other four islands by the windy conditions. Engine 8 and Ladder 8 used hand lines with foam to extinguish the fires.

The City of Madison Fire Department reminds residents:
• Recognize that when the weather is hot and there has been little or no rain for an extended time, mulch fires can start more readily.
• When entering a business, if you see anything smoldering in a landscaped area, put it out if you can and report it to someone inside the building. If the burning material is not thoroughly wetted down or removed, it may reignite.
• 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 approved receptacles for smoking materials at all entrances to public buildings and in designated smoking areas. Do not use mulch in or near these areas.
• Provide a minimum 18-inch clearance between landscaped mulch beds and combustible building materials.
• Provide proper clearance for electric devices such as decorative lights by following the manufacturer's instructions.
• Keep landscaped mulch beds moist.
• Use noncombustible mulch such as rock or pea gravel around the gas meter and next to the combustible portions of the structure.
• Use only the manufacturer's recommended size/wattage for yard light bulbs.
• Use only electrical devices and cords listed for outdoor use, and follow the manufacturer's specifications.
• Consider replacing landscaping mulch with decorative stone.

  • Lori Wirth, (608) 575-4943