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A Cautionary Tale About Pine Straw

13 years ago

Recently on this forum there was a thread discussing pine straw as a garden mulch. Because quite a number of us use it (including myself), I thought I should remind everyone that there is an element of danger associated with its use.

In yesterday's edition of THE NEWS & OBSERVER (Raleigh, NC) there was a front page article with this headline: 'Fire Revives Questions About Pine Straw Safety'. The lead paragraph reads as follows: 'The fire that destroyed a half-dozen homes in a new North Raleigh subdivision . . . appeared to crawl along the ground whipped by wind and fed by grass and pine straw, before leaping up and burning virtually everything in its path . . . '.

This most recent conflagration is the third major such incident to have occurred in Raleigh in recent years. In 2007, 24 townhouses were destroyed there when a cigarette tossed into pine straw mulch started a wind-whipped fire. Last year in Apex (Raleigh suburb), another cigarette-into-pine straw fire destroyed 6 townhouses and led to a prohibition against the use of pine straw within 10 ft of a combustible exterior. A contributing factor in the destruction was that most (if not all) of the residences that burned were either partially or totally clad with vinyl siding.

Since I'm one who has advocated the use of pine straw in rose beds, I felt I should pass this warning along. I'll continue to use it, but always with respect for its destructive potential.

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