How to Prevent Mulch Fires Following Barnegat Incident

File Photo

BARNEGAT – Recently investigators updated the reasons behind a garbage can explosion in the township, and cited decomposing mulch as a factor. After that, questions were raised about how something like this could happen and you could prevent it from happening on your property.

(Photo courtesy of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office)

The case revolved around an explosion the night of October 13 between 81 Village Dr. and 82 Wind-ward Dr. The incident raised red flags because it reminded residents of bombs that were detonated in garbage cans a month earlier during a Semper Five 5K race in Seaside Park.

An investigation revealed that there were no indications that it was caused by a bomb, officials said, leaving the only possible solution that it was organic matter composting that caused excess heat and led to the incident.

Susan Emhardt-Servidio, horticulturist at the Rutgers Co-operative Extension of Ocean County, said that is a likely possibility. When vegetative matter breaks down, it releases energy.

“It builds up so much heat and spontaneously combusts,” she said. “It’s usually not a problem for most homeowners.”

Generally, most people don’t have a lot of mulch piled up where there would be an issue, she said. However, if you do, you have to wet it down every so often. You also have to turn it over from time to time. Keeping it in a container, like a garbage can, prevents this from happening.

“Get air in there to cool it off,” she said.