Fire and rescue units from Kirkpatrick Farms, Dulles South, Brambleton, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and Fairfax County were on scene Tuesday evening for a massive fire caused by spontaneous combustion of mulch.
Crews were dispatched just after 6 p.m. to Feldspar Place in the Stone Ridge neighborhood and found heavy fire and smoke coming from the second floor and roof of a large, single family home, according to Loudoun County Fire-Rescue. The occupants had already evacuated and were outside.
Fire crews entered the home and encountered heavy fire conditions on the second floor and in the attic. They retreated outside until the ladder truck’s stream could knock down the fire. Once safe, firefighters re-entered the home to locate hot spots and ensure the fire was extinguished.
No injuries were reported, but the four occupants have been displaced from the home, and there was an estimated $1.36 million in damages, including $20,000 in damages to two neighboring homes.
Fire-rescue investigators determined the fire was caused by the spontaneous combustion of newly placed mulch, resulting in a mulch fire that spread to the building.
The fire prompted a warning from the Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office to use caution and follow safety precautions when using landscaping mulch.
“Spontaneous combustion can happen when a decomposing, organic material such as mulch generates enough heat to ignite without an outside source,” stated Chief Fire Marshal Linda Hale. “Because of this, a large or compacted area of mulch can create sufficient heat to spontaneously combust. Remember, in all cases, mulch fires are more likely to start when the weather is hot, and it has been dry for an extended period.”
The department offered some precautions when spreading mulch:
- 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 landscaped mulch beds moist if possible.
- Recognize that hot and dry spells, along with windy conditions allow mulch fires to start more readily.
- Ensure proper clearance to electric devices, such as lights, by following the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Use non-combustible materials such as river rock, pea gravel or crushed rock for the first 18 inches around the base of a building with combustible siding and around gas and electrical meters.
- Consider using brick or non-combustible exterior siding when building or renovating a structure.
- Use only approved receptacles to dispose of matches, cigarettes, and cigars such as sturdy metal or ceramic containers filled with sand, located away from the structure.
- Immediately report any smoke or fire by calling 9-1-1.
For more information on fire prevention, visit loudoun.gov/firemarshal or contact Lisa Braun, Public Education Manager, at 571-258-3222.