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Pine Straw Ordinance

Last updated Nov. 19, 2014 - 1:23 pm
  • *Example of Pine Straw Mulch in close proximity to combustible exterior surfaces.Example of Pine Straw Mulch in close proximity to combustible exterior surfaces.
  • *Pine Straw Mulch in close proximity to combustible exterior construction.Pine Straw Mulch in close proximity to combustible exterior construction.
  • *Pine Straw Mulch in close proximity to combustible exterior construction.Pine Straw Mulch in close proximity to combustible exterior construction.

In 2010, the City of Raleigh passed a pine straw ordinance took effect that bans the use of pine straw as ground cover within 10 feet of multi-family dwellings. Single-family and two-family homes are exempt from the ordinance, however, the City strongly encourages these homeowners to comply with the pine straw restrictions.

May I place approved landscape materials over existing pine straw landscaping?
No. To meet the intent of the ordinance, all prohibited landscape material shall be removed before installing any new material.

What if the bottom floor of the building in question is made of non-combustible materials, but the floor(s) above are of combustible construction materials?
The ordinance still applies. Combustible pine straw landscaping will be kept at minimum, 10 feet from any building containing exterior combustible construction materials.

Do decks count as combustible construction materials even if attached to a building which is made of non-combustible exterior construction?
Yes. If the deck is made of a combustible material, by definition it is exposed combustible framing.

Are townhomes and condominiums included in the ordinance?
Townhomes are not subject to the provisions of the ordinance since they are considered private, one and two family dwellings, having no public common areas and are not subject to fire inspections. Condominiums do have common public areas and are subject to the regulations of this ordinance.

What does the ordinance actually say?
No pine straw mulch shall be placed, kept, or stored within ten feet of buildings with combustible exterior construction. This provision shall not apply to one and two family dwellings as defined in Section R101.2 of the North Carolina Residential Building Code, as the same may be amended, nor shall it apply to pine straw falling from trees located on the same parcel as the dwelling."

If I use pine straw after this date, am I subject to fines?
Yes. The fines per violation are not less than $50 and cannot exceed $500.

May I place approved landscape materials over existing pine straw landscaping?
No. To meet the intent of the ordinance, all prohibited landscape material shall be removed before installing any new material.

What exactly is combustible exterior construction?
Outer surfaces of structures including but not limited to siding, soffit and exposed structural members made of materials that will burn when ignited or melt when exposed to open flame exposing other combustible framing, sheathing or insulating materials which can burn. A few examples of these materials include but are not limited to wood and wood products, vinyl, and masonite.

Does this 10 feet rule mean I can't put it anywhere around a building with combustible exterior construction, or just around the combustible part?
You must keep the material 10 feet from any portion of the building that is combustible, including decking, or any combustible exterior construction.

Does this ordinance apply to my townhome or condominium?
Townhomes are not subject to the provisions of the ordinance since they are considered private, one and two family dwellings, having no public common areas and are not subject to fire inspections. Condominiums do have common public areas and are subject to the regulations of this ordinance.

I live in a single family home, so this doesn't apply to me, right?
Correct. However, the Fire Marshal's Office strongly recommends that you keep combustible landscaping materials, including pine straw, at least 10 feet from your home.

Why is my Homeowner's Association enforcing this if it doesn't apply to single family homes?
Often, HOAs decide to place items in your covenant that deem necessary for the safety of the community.

So if I can't use pine straw, what can I use?
There are many resources on the web that can point you in the right direction. You can start at http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/05/29/503882/alternatives-to-pine-straw-for.html for basic information on alternatives to pine straw for your lawn. As always, feel free to contact us at fireprevention@raleighnc.gov if you have specific questions.

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