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Marketing & Communications

Posted on: December 9, 2021

Pine Straw To Be Prohibited Around Combustible Commercial and Multi-Family Buildings

The Winston-Salem City Council has amended the city fire code to prohibit the use of pine straw (pine needles) as a landscaping material within 10 feet of commercial and multi-family residential buildings with combustible exteriors. The council approved the ordinance Nov. 15. It will take effect on Nov. 15, 2022.

The ordinance applies to commercial and multi-family residential buildings with exteriors using wood, Masonite, aluminum or vinyl siding or other combustible material.

Single-family and two-family (duplex) houses are exempted. Also exempted are commercial and multi-family residential buildings with exteriors made of brick, stone, stucco, cement, metal or other non-combustible material.

Specifically, the ordinance applies to any landscaping material that can spread fire at a rate of 24 inches or more per minute. Pine straw has a fire-spread rate of 90 inches per minute, said Fire Chief Trey Mayo. 

“Pine straw naturally contains flammable resins, has a large surface area, dries quickly, and burns six to ten times faster than other materials typically used as mulch,” Mayo said. “If you have pine straw against a building that has a combustible exterior, and that pine straw catches fire, it can quickly spread to the building.

“This is exactly what happened on Jan. 23, 2021, when there was a fire at an apartment building on High Meadows Drive here in Winston-Salem. In just a matter of minutes the fire spread to the open stairwell of the building, engulfing the primary way out of those apartments.” 

The Fire Department will be mailing postcards to owners of commercial and multi-family residential buildings, as well as to landscaping businesses, to ensure they are aware of the new law.

Although most single-family houses are exempted, single-family houses that are used for an R-4 Home Daycare or R-4 Residential Care Home must comply with the ordinance. The R-4 category covers day cares with 6 to 16 children or residential care homes with 6 to 16 occupants.

More information about the ordinance, including frequently asked questions, is posted at CityofWS.org/PineStraw.


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