Cedar Mill
Community Website

Search the Cedar Mill News:

About The
Cedar Mill News

Volume 11, Issue 7
July 2013

Bark dust can mask a creeping fire
By Lieutenant James Whyte, Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue, Beaverton Station 61

The recent heat wave is keeping your Cedar Mill-area firefighters busy and one of the biggest reasons may be sitting in your yard. Bark dust or mulch can add beauty and color to a landscape, keep weeds in check, control dust, and enrich the soil as it decomposes. It is also an organic material that is highly flammable.

A barkdust fire at a convenience store nearly destroyed the electric panel

Thousands of mulch-related fires are reported across the United States each year, particularly during warm and sunny weather. As the wood in mulch begins to decompose, it produces heat. When mulch is spread in thin layers, this heat can dissipate. In deep mulch, the heat cannot dissipate as easily and the risk of a fire increases, especially when introduced to an open flame such as a cigarette or fireworks.

Since January, our station has already responded to 33 bark dust fires. While most bark dust fires are small and we are able to extinguish them quickly, many bark dust fires in our area have been known to grow out of hand and cause major damage.

With this trend in fires, it is important for community members to recognize how flammable bark dust is. Although it doesn’t look dangerous, it can mask a creeping fire. Over several hours, that tiny smoldering fire can slowly creep into plants, trees, homes, and buildings, eventually causing thousands of dollars in damage.

So how can you safeguard your home or business from a bark dust fire?

It is especially important that smokers properly discard their smoking materials. As restrictions on smoking in public places have increased, more and more smokers have been forced outdoors. Although TVF&R encourages people to avoid smoking altogether for health and safety reasons, those who do choose to smoke should always extinguish and discard cigarettes in an ashtray or appropriate metal container with a lid.

  • When selecting bark mulch for your home or business, I encourage community members to consider fire safety and not just how long the mulch will last or how it will look aesthetically.
  • Use mulch made from wood that is low in volatile oils or resins or use an alternative product, such as cocoa shells, decorative rock, or brick chips.
  • Spread mulch in thin layers so that heat can easily dissipate, and keep it moist.
  • Avoid placing mulch directly against structures or near potential sources of ignition, such as decorative lights or outdoor appliances.

Thanks for reading, stay safe this summer, and we look forward to seeing you at one of the many community events that TVF&R Station 61 firefighters attend in Cedar Mill. For tips on other safety issues, visit our website at



Sign Up Now to receive
The Cedar Mill News by email each month

fb like
Like us on Facebook for timely updates

Cedar Mill News
Past Issues

Published monthly by Pioneer Marketing & Design
Publisher/Editor:Virginia Bruce
PO Box 91061
Portland, Oregon 97291
© 2013