Firefighters call mulch, cigarettes, summer heat a ‘recipe for disaster’

Mulch fires

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Fire officials urged smokers to dispose of cigarettes away from mulch after two fires Saturday afternoon in Wayne and Pike Townships.

Both blazes appeared to be caused by cigarette butts tossed into mulch beds, according to Wayne Township Fire Capt. Mike Pruitt.

No injuries were reported.

“Luckily, damage was minimal,” the fire department said in a Tweet. “Please do not discard your cigarettes into mulch beds. You could be responsible for major property damage, serious injury or death. #thinkbeforeyouflip”

Hot, dry weather and careless cigarette disposal are a “recipe for disaster,” Pruitt said, adding mulch fires can ignite beneath the surface and spread undetected in tunnels.

“It burns down into the mulch, which then [spreads] to the building,” he told News 8. “We’ve had apartment buildings nearly burn to the ground because of a discarded cigarette. That’s how serious of a situation it is. We just want people to pay attention.”

A fire that displaced more than 50 residents in May 2018 at the Meridian Oaks Apartments in Greenwood was believed to be caused by discarded smoking materials in a mulch bed, officials said.

Pruitt also urged Independence Day revelers to keep fireworks and sparklers away from mulch.

“It runs a huge risk of starting a major fire,” he said. “Keep an eye on where hot items fall. Keep the mulch beds wet and stir them up so nothing smolders beneath the surface.”

Fireworks were the suspected cause of an Independence Day fire south of St. Louis in 2010 that took more than 12 hours to extinguish.