Fire Marshal’s safety tips after mulch fire damages Aldie home

Aldie Mulch Fire

The Tuesday, April 27 fire in Aldie prompts a warning from the Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office to residents and business owners to use caution and follow important safety precautions when using landscaping mulch.

Just after 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 27, the Loudoun County Emergency Communication Center received a 911 call from a resident reporting a fire to the rear of a neighboring home. Fire and rescue units from Kirkpatrick Farms, Dulles South, Brambleton, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and Fairfax County were dispatched to the incident in the 41,000 block of Feldspar Place in Aldie.

Firefighters arrived on scene to find a significant amount of fire and smoke coming from the second floor and roof of a large, single family home. The occupants of the home had self-evacuated and were located safely outside. 

Fire crews made entry into the home and encountered heavy fire conditions on the second floor and attic areas. Due to the advanced state of the fire, crews retreated outside until the ladder truck’s master stream could knock down the bulk of fire. Once safe, firefighters re-entered the home to locate hot spots and ensure the fire was extinguished.

No injuries were reported to civilians or firefighters; however, the four occupants of the home were displaced. The total dollar loss is estimated $1.36 million and includes $20,000 in damages to two neighboring homes. 

The cause of the fire was determined be spontaneous combustion of newly placed mulch, that caused the mulch fire to extend to the structure. “Spontaneous combustion can happen when a decomposing, organic material such as mulch generates enough heat to ignite without an outside source,” said 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.”

Fires that start in landscaping mulch or other organic planting materials can spread quickly into shrubbery, up exterior walls and into the home or building. To help prevent mulch fires at your home or business, please follow these safety tips:

  • 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” 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 www.loudoun.gov/firemarshal, or contact Lisa Braun, Public Education Manager, at 571-258-3222.

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