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DA: Careless smoker, mulch to blame for fatal fire in Arlington

A jerk who tossed a lit cigarette butt into some mulch outside an Arlington condo complex sparked a four-alarm fire that left a man dead and dozens of other residents homeless, the Middlesex County District Attorney's office reports.

In a statement, DA Marian Ryan says:

A man died in this fire and tragically the situation was completely avoidable. The fire started because someone carelessly disposed of smoking materials, most likely a cigarette. It appears that mulch caught fire and the flames quickly spread to a wooden balcony and stairway.

The condo association will be hit with a fine because the mulch was closer to the building than the minimum 18-inch separation required by state code, state Fire Marshal Steve Coan said:

Similar past fires were the very reason this provision of the code was enacted.

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Comments

Selfish. Lazy. Murderer.

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Smokers are the bottom most scum of society. Heroin users have the courtesy to not burn hundreds of Americans to death each year.

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The condo association will be hit with a fine because the mulch was closer to the building than the minimum 18-inch separation required by state code ...

And the cigarette-tosser will be hit with...?

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Probably nothing, because no one knows who it was. The condo association can easily be identified, someone who walked past and happened to drop a cigarette not so much.

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Here's hoping there was a surveillance camera nearby that caught the cigarette flicker...
Regardless, at this point, the person probably knows who he/she is and will have to live with the burden of knowing they caused this fire.

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That's if the cigarette butt was dropped by a passerby. Just a couple of weeks ago we spotted - and stamped out - a just-beginning mulch fire beside an apartment building in our neighborhood where tenants frequently drop cigarette butts from their balconies.

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Quite a few years ago, my friends and I walked into a Best Buy not to buy anything (perish the thought) but to let an employee know that the landscaping right outside their front door was mildly on fire.

Last spring I kicked out a smoldering mound of mulch in a Target parking lot in Pennsylvania.

A few weeks ago I called 9-1-1 to let them know that the median on Route 16 right outside Wellington T Stop was burning.

I assume cigarettes caused every one. People are awful.

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I've seen hot car engines start mulch fires. Someone at work pulled into their parking spot that abutted a median strip with fresh laid much. The heat from her engine ignited the mulch. Luckily it was noticed from the office above and she had a chance to move her car.

This person is not a smoker.

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I've also seen mulch spontaneously combust, too, although I think that's more common if it's in a pile.

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Yes, a few summers ago we TWICE (in the course of a week or two) had to call 911 for spontaneous mulch fires in the Brighton Mills parking lot.

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Why not just pour gasoline around your home instead? Think about it. Its really stupid to put flammable stuff where it can cause harm. It takes two acts of stupidity to make for a tragedy - the flammable material and the flame, so don't go blaming only one.

Its much the same reason why we don't want to put flammable acoustic and other materials inside nightclubs where people might smoke or have hot stage lights and pyrotechnics displays.

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Good point but maybe also people shouldn't throw their butts wherever they want. Another way to make money for the state. If you are seen by a police person throwing your butts where they shouldn't be thrown they should write you a ticket.

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Perhaps shouldn't have had mulch around the building but the side that burned had extensive wooden decks. The building itself is brick and likely would have been fine had the decks not been prime kindling.

I saw the residents outside in blankets on my way into work yesterday. A lot of people lost everything. Very sad.

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I was curious about this law myself because I do put mulch down in my front yard and wondered if its against the law why do so many people do it (and break the law).

The difference is the brick. My foundation is brick/cement/masonry and so are the porch bases. No wood at all (except in the back which has no mulch near it). So I'm in the clear..

Now as far long the wooden fence line... not so much, and will be removed this weekend along with making sure the mulch doesn't exceed 2-3" (so organic fires don't start from excessive heat) near the stone. (these fire scare me because it's a no fault fire, except sun exposure and heat)

A handy dandy PDF was made by the state outlining the law in plain english. It can be found here:

http://www.mass.gov/eopss/docs/dfs/osfm/pubed/flyers/mulchfires2015.pdf

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You should just get rid of the mulch entirely and go with a stone garden. It's much nicer looking and smelling and it's fairly rare that stones catch on fire.

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Eh, not that simple. Stone is a lot of work to maintain, more than mulch. It isn't mulch, it won't block weeds, even if you lay down landscape fabric it will accumulate organic material and sprout everything. It's a big pain in the ass.

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That, imho, would solve the problem, especially if it was enforced by hitting violators of this law in their pocketbooks (where it hurts most)--inotherwords, by issuing them a good, stiff fine, and the requirement for community service if they do it again.

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