“There weren’t any huge surprises,” said Steve Quarels, a cooperative extension advisor at the University of California. “If you have a combustible mulch, it definitely has the potential to burn. We pretty much showed that any of combustible mulches will burn . . .” “Some of them [mulches] were a much greater threat than others,” added Ed Smith, a natural resource specialist with the University of Nevada-Reno Cooperative Extension.
Smith and Quarels conducted the study in the wake of the devastating 2007 Angora wildfire in the South Lake Tahoe area. That fire burned more than 3,000 acres and destroyed 242 homes and 67 outbuildings. “Clearly, fewer houses would have burned had they had more effective defensible space, better access for firefighters and contained less flammable material,” noted a report that was published after the blaze. The findings by Smith and Quarel, however, were disputed by the Mulch and Soil Council, which contended there were major flaps in the way the study was conducted.