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Burning Bush Fire at Jefferson on the Creek

Early reports of entrapment proved false, fire officials said.

A fire caused by a burning bush threatened several units at the Thursday night.

The bush caught fire due to freshly spread mulch that was placed against the building and around the shrubs, Fire Marshal Dan Laurich said. Mulch can self-combust due to heat caused by its breakdown in warm temperatures - much like Thursday's. 

Fire crews were dispatched by the county at 7:07 p.m. and found the fire, which caused damage to the facade of the first and second floors of the apartment building, nearly extinguished. Firefighters then went to work checking that flames did not spread into the building and ventilate smoke out of the units, Chief Mitch Shapiro told Patch.

Callers first reported to 911 that residents were trapped in the apartment by the fire, but when fire crews arrived all occupants were safe and outside, Shapiro said. No injuries were reported.

All renters were allowed to return to their apartments after shortly after fire crews began clearing the scene, said Laurich.

The fire and responding fire apparatus drew crowds of residents from all sections of the complex, many craning their necks for a view of the charred bush and melted siding.

Fire crews from several local departments - Hartsville, Warminster and Upper Southampton - responded to the call.

Tennessee firefighter Mark Finucane offered a list of trips to prevent mulch fires on FireEngineering.com. Below are several of them:

  • Recognize that when the weather is hot and there has been little or no rain for an extended time, mulch fires can start more readily.
  • Provide approved receptacles for smoking materials at all entrances to public buildings and in designated smoking areas. Do not use mulch in or near these areas.
  • Provide a minimum 18-inch clearance between landscaped mulch beds and combustible building materials.
  • Provide proper clearance for electric devices such as decorative lights by following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Keep landscaped mulch beds moist, if possible.
  • Use noncombustible mulch such as rock or pea gravel around the gas meter and next to the combustible portions of the structure.
  • Use only the manufacturer’s recommended size/wattage for yard light bulbs.
  • Use only electrical devices and cords listed for outdoor use, and follow the manufacturer’s specifications.
  • Consider replacing landscaping mulch with decorative stone.

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