Many Richmondites use bark mulch in their garden beds. Some gardeners believe it's their garden's best friend because it preserves moisture in the garden and plants are less susceptible to certain fungal diseases.
However, according to Richmond Fire Rescue, bark mulch can be a real fire hazard as well.
"Although we are not in a wildfire zone in Richmond, warm dry weather, such as the last four weeks in Richmond, may be cause for concern," said deputy fire chief Kim Howell.
She said in areas where warm weather is a factor, fire experts recommend distances of two to nine meters between your home and your bark mulch.
"One of the greatest concerns is that the burning/smoldering mulch may eventually ignite the underneath of the siding and then spread to the structural components of a house or building," added Howell.
There are two categories of mulches: organic and inorganic. Organic mulches are usually plant-based materials such as pine needles, wheat straw, pine bark nuggets, shredded western red cedar and redwood bark and wood chips.
Gardeners also use cocoa shells as well as ground and shredded rubber. Inorganic mulches are non-plant materials such as rock, gravel and brick chips.
Richmond Fire-Rescue recommends using non-organic mulch whenever mulching material is placed close to a home or structure.
"Bark mulch fires often start by carelessly discarded smoker's material," said Howell.
"If you see a small bark mulch fire, take a small garden hose and soak the area thoroughly, break up the bark mulch to stop the underneath spread.
"These fires often travel low, under the mulching material, so it is important to ensure all embers are extinguished and heat is removed. These fires are slow and difficult to detect on hot summer days."
- Create a noncombustible barrier between your home and your bark mulch, minimum Â½ metre
- Ensure proper clearance to electrical devices such as decorative lighting by following the manufacturer's instructions
- Use only electrical devices and cords listed for outdoor use, and follow manufacturer's specifications
- Use non-combustible mulch such as pea gravel around the gas meter and next to combustible portions of a structure
- Maintain mulch at a depth of no more than two to four inches