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Raleigh weighs limits on pine straw outside homes

Posted April 6, 2010

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— The City Council on Tuesday debated a suggestion by Mayor Charles Meeker to enact tougher restrictions on the use of pine straw in landscaping around Raleigh homes.

The Raleigh Fire Department recommended last week that the city pass an ordinance prohibiting the use of pine straw within 10 feet of combustible structures, aside from single-family homes and duplexes. The recommendation came after a March 23 fire that destroyed seven homes in the Highland Creek subdivision off Louisburg Road in northeast Raleigh.

Armadale Lane house fire Pine straw helped recent fire spread

"The pine straw issue is ... first of all, the most effective (and the) simplest thing we can do to address and alleviate some of the hazards we see," Raleigh Fire Marshal Rusty Styons told the City Council on Tuesday.

Meeker said he doesn't believe the recommendation goes far enough, and he called for an ordinance to keep pine straw 20 to 30 feet from buildings. He said one- and two-family dwellings also should be covered by the ordinance.

Styons said the Raleigh Fire Department doesn't have the authority to enforce regulations on single-family homes and duplexes, although city building inspectors could enforce such rules.

"We think the 10-feet (limit) is, in fact, prudent," he said.

Meeker's effort sparked a discussion among council members about the pine tree's status as North Carolina's state tree and the importance of the pine straw industry to the state economy.

"Are we going to say you're not going to have a tree within a certain distance of a house?" Councilman Thomas Crowder asked, noting he routinely gets pine needles in his yard from trees.

"I didn't mean to suggest that we eliminate pine trees," Meeker said. "What I was suggesting is we have a restriction on pine straw that is stacked next to single-family homes."

The issue was referred to a committee for further review.

A pair of similar fires three years ago led to changes in the building codes at the city and state levels.

Pine straw next to units in the Pine Knolls Townes complex, off Capital Boulevard in Raleigh, helped spread a February 2007 fire that damaged or destroyed 38 townhouses.

Six months later, a fire destroyed two homes in the Village at Rolesville subdivision in Rolesville. That led the town to consider changes to its building codes.

Meeker said he doesn't think Raleigh went far enough in changing building codes after the Pine Knolls Townes fire, and now is the time to make up for it.

"We haven't had anybody killed or seriously injured, but that could happen in the wrong situation," he said. "This is truly a life safety issue."


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  • stupiditydeservesnosympathy Apr 8, 2010

    People who chose to use like pine straw show have to sign a insurance waiver. If someone is dumb enough to use that unattractive stuff as "decorative material" they deserve to pay for a new house out of pocket.

  • streetfightinman Apr 7, 2010

    Hello , watch where you toss your cigarette butts,
    Gas stations are dangerous also but, no smoking is allowed around the pumps, dumb people are the problem not pine straw beds!

  • dmccall Apr 7, 2010

    This bad would cost my family at least $200.

    IF we ban pine straw within 30 feet of houses, we should also ban warm season grasses like Bermuda and Zoysia because they are dry fire hazards for 6 months out of the year.

  • seankelly15 Apr 7, 2010

    I am sorry folks but your comments are lacking... pine straw has nothing to do with the Obama administration or a congressman's comment about Guam (even though you folks climb on the bandwagon every time a story appears - heck I saw a comment about the Obama administration in the comments about the NCAA championship). The fact is that the purchasing of pine straw (not the pine needles falling from trees) for the sole purpose of landscaping no longer is acceptable now that homes are built so close to one another and pine straw is highly combustible. I could maybe entertain your arguments but you are the same folks that want to tell a women what she can and cannot do with her body, block gays from marrying, allowing the government to spy on citizens without court approval. No, you are all for controlling other folk’s behavior but bristle at the addition of a building code or a fire regulation.

  • southpaw Apr 7, 2010

    About five years ago I mentioned to several individuals that I saw a potential fire hazard with pine straw. The residents who smoke in our neighborhood have a tendency (while dog walking) to flip cigarette butts into the straw. One of these days our town homes are going to go up like a tinder box. I think a major blaze has to occur before pine straw is officially banned.

  • Grandpeople Apr 7, 2010

    So let's do away with another small business. Oh that's right, the Obama Socialize America will take care of them. I am in a bad nightmare I want to wake up and find myself back in the real America.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Apr 7, 2010

    Meeker needs to focus on real problems which include run away taxes and fees that need to be reduced.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Apr 7, 2010

    This from the people who also wanted to ban garbage disposals.

    What's next? Cars because they occasionally hit someone.

  • dogman1973 Apr 7, 2010

    What do you fine Raleighites expect when you RE-ELECTed Meeker? Seriously, this is the same court jester who wanted to do away with your right to have garbage disposals all in the name of saving water! You guys must like having your freedoms assaulted by this buffoon. Or maybe you re-elected him to see what other foolhardy suggestions he could come up with next?

  • Boogereater Apr 7, 2010

    Are they going to fine the trees?