Scientists look into making mulch less flammable |

Scientists look into making mulch less flammable

Annie Flanzraich
Nevada Appeal News Service

Ed Smith, a natural resource specialist for the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, is excited about the chance to set pine needles, wood chips and other mulches on fire this summer.

All for the sake of research of course.

Smith is part of a team of researchers looking into the best mulching practices and products for people living in the Tahoe Basin.

Smith and Steve Quarles, a wood performance and durability scientist with the University of California Cooperative extension, plan to study organic and inorganic mulches under “real world” situations in order to find the best options for property owners.

“The Tahoe Basin might be one of the most confusing places for a homeowner to live,” Smith said. “Its important to get them on the same page.”

Although the study is still in the planning phases, Smith said he and Quarles hope to use a portion of the land at the Carson City Airport used by the Carson City Fire Department to lay out different kinds of mulches in May. Then the mulches will be exposed to the harsh summer. In August, the team will set fire to the mulches and measure their ignition rates and flame lengths.

“This is one more step along the way to having a home that can survive wildfire exposure by understanding what mulches can be used,” Quarles said.

The study will look at many different kinds of readily available mulches available commercially. It will also look at additives that claim to be fire retardent.

“It’s a big deal if we find something substantially better,” Smith said. “It will give us something to recommend and kill two birds with one stone by creating effective defensible space that can maintain water quality objectives.”