Loudoun County Fire and Rescue Fire Marshal’s Office (LCFR-FMO) offers safety tips after an accidental fire destroyed a large barn yesterday afternoon. Just before 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, September 20, 2022, the Loudoun County Emergency Communications Center received a 911 call reporting a barn on fire behind a residence on Lincoln Road in Purcellville. The caller advised the barn was on fire and flames were approaching several large propane tanks so Hazardous Materials response units were added to the call.
Fire and rescue crews arrived on the scene to find a large barn, approximately 40’ x 80’ feet, with significant smoke and fire showing. Firefighters worked quickly to extinguish the fire and remained on scene for an extended period extinguishing hot spots and assisting the Fire Marshal’s Office investigation. The LCFR-FMO investigation determined that the fire was accidental, caused by the spontaneous combustion of mulch and potting soil from a flowerbox. The damages to the barn and its contents are estimated at is $532,000. Fortunately, no residents were displaced and there are no reported injuries to people or animals. “Spontaneous combustion can happen when a decomposing, organic material such as mulch generates enough heat to ignite without an outside source," states System Chief Keith H. Johnson. "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, please visit www.loudoun.gov/firemarshal or contact Lisa Braun, Public Education Manager, at 571-258-3222.