Mulch Likely Cause of West Main Road Fire

A fire that broke out Wednesday on West Main Road was likely started by smoldering mulch. The Middletown Fire Department is urging residents to use caution in these dry conditions.

A fire broke out on West Main Road Wednesday morning. The  believes it was started by smoldering mulch located in a flower bed. Now, the department is reminding residents to use caution when it comes to landscaping mulch in these dry conditions.

The department responded to 1864 West Main Rd. around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday when a witness called 911 after driving by the fire. 

Witnesses used the homeowner's garden hose to contain the fire. Once on scene, the MFD was able to quickly extinguish the remaining fire, which had spread to the porch. Fire Inspector Lt. Robert McCall said damage was estimated at $15,000.

Fire Chief Ron Doire said the department has had a few similar fires lately as a result of the dry conditions. He urged residents to exercise caution when laying down new mulch. 

According to the department, each year during the spring and summer months, hundreds of mulch fires are reported across the nation. These fires start out small and undetected, but can eventually grow into a devastating fire, causing major damage to buildings, homes, and other structures.

Typically, mulch that is piled too deeply, more than a few inches, can build up heat and spontaneously catch fire, said Lt. McCall.

Another problem the department said is decorative lighting. If lights are installed too close, or inside mulch, they can heat it up and cause a fire. As the fire starts in the landscaping mulch, it quickly spreads into the shrubbery and then into the home or building. Other contributing factors include below average rainfall, extremely dry conditions, warm weather, and abnormal winds.

Lt. McCall said the most common cause of mulch fire is human carelessness through discarding of smoking products. Last week, the Newport Fire Department reported that on Dudley Street.

The Middletown Fire Department urges smokers to take precaution when smoking around landscaping beds.  

The department offered the following tips to prevent a fire:

• Become aware of this fire safety problem and use smoking materials responsibly. Use only approved receptacles for matches, cigarettes and cigars.
• Recognize that hot and dry spells allow mulch fires to start more readily.
• Report any smoke or fire in a mulch bed via 9-1-1.
• Maintain at least 18 inches of clearance between the edge of the mulch bed and combustible building materials, such as exterior vinyl siding and decks.
• Keep mulch beds as moist as possible.

For more information, please contact the Middletown Fire Department at 239 Wyatt Road or by calling (401)846-1031.


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