For many, Memorial Day weekend is considered the start to the summer and usually signifies the beginning of the beautiful-yet exceedingly humid-New England summer weather. Even with all of the rain that we have had in Southern Massachusetts this spring, the public needs to be while mindful that areas are still DRY and caution should be taken when disposing of a cigarette, cigar or smoking materials. Outside areas like decks, porches and exterior stairways are common smoking spots and therefore often become a point of origin for structure fires.

Be a Responsible Smoker: Put It Out. All the Way. Every Time.

  • Always use appropriate receptacles for disposing of smoking materials and matches.
  • Do not discard cigarettes, cigars or matches in mulch or potted plants.
  • Wet butts down before throwing out.
  • Consider using metal cans with sand for outdoor disposal.
  • Never throw lit smoking materials out of a car window. It is a fire risk and it is illegal to do so. The penalty for throwing lit materials from a car is a fine of $100 and/or thirty days imprisonment (M.G.L. c. 148 § 54).

Million Dollar Mulch Fires

According to The Boston Globe, last year in less than a week’s time, three individual fires caused an estimated total $10 million worth of structural damage and property loss. Twenty-three units were affected, leaving 54 people displaced and without a home. These are some additional property fires in Massachusetts from the past 10 years that resulted in substantial losses…

  • May 2015, Arlington, MA | A large apartment complex. One man died in the fire started by smoking materials discarded in a mulch bed, which spread to a car, then to the building. Thirty-six apartments and six cars were destroyed. The building had no sprinklers and the estimated dollar loss was $6.7 million.
  • April 2012, Braintree, MA | Improperly discarded smoking materials ignited mulch outside an assisted living center. The fire forced many older adults to evacuate in the early morning hours. Several residents suffered smoke inhalation injuries.
  • May 2008, Peabody, MA | A cigarette ignited a mulch fire at an apartment complex. The fire caused over $7 million in damage to the building, temporarily displaced 750 people and permanently displaced 36 people.

The Bottom Line

The best way to deal with insurance claims after a fire is to be prepared before it happens. Understanding your rights and responsibilities as a property owner is the first step in pre-disaster planning. The City of Boston Fire Prevention page has some great tips for getting organized after a fire.