Pine straw/Combustible landscaping materials ordinance

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On May 13, 2010, the Cary Town Council approved a “Combustible Landscaping Ordinance,” which became effective immediately. The ordinance is located in Section 16-3 of the Town Code.

Sec 16-3 Combustible Landscaping Material Prohibited

No pine straw or any other landscape cover material with a fire rate of spread more than 24 inches per minute shall be placed, kept, or stored within 10 feet of buildings with combustible exterior construction including, but not limited to, vinyl, aluminum, masonite, or wood siding.

(A) Exception: Detached single family residential structures not utilized as an “R-4 Home Daycare” or “R-4 Residential Care Home” as defined in the North Carolina Building Code.

(B) Civil Penalties: Violations not abated within (7) days of a written notice shall constitute a $250.00 per day fine

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do I have to remove existing pine straw that was in place prior to May 13, 2010?
No, all existing pine straw may remain but any additional pine straw within 10 feet of combustible exterior construction is prohibited.

2. What constitutes combustible exterior construction and non-combustible exterior construction?
Combustible exterior construction includes but is not limited to vinyl, aluminum, masonite, or wood siding. Non-combustible exterior construction includes but is not limited to brick, stone, Hardi-Plank, stucco, concrete, or metal siding.

3. If I have non-combustible exterior construction extending 8 feet vertically and then combustible construction above that, can I utilize pine straw?
No, the non-combustible exterior construction would have to extend at least 10 feet vertically from the ground.

4. Does this ordinance apply to townhomes?
Yes. Although townhomes may be individually owned, they are considered multi-family and this ordinance would apply.

5. When I install other landscape cover materials such as bark, do I have to remove the existing pine straw?
No, you can either remove the existing pine straw or place the new landscape cover material over the existing pine straw.

6. If I have pine trees that drop pine needles within 10 feet of combustible exterior construction, do I have to keep the pine needles raked up at least 10 feet from the exterior walls?
No, pine needles that naturally fall from trees are not considered landscape cover material.

7. If I have non-combustible exterior construction with combustible window seals or frames or a deck, is my exterior wall still considered to be non-combustible construction?
Yes, even with combustible window seals and frames or a deck, the wall would still be considered non-combustible.

8. Why does the ordinance reference a specific fire rate of spread of more than 24?
The Cary Fire Department has an average response time of five minutes. If a landscape cover material has a fire rate of spread of 24-inches per minute, the flame would spread 10 feet in five minutes. Thus, the ordinance requires a 10-foot separation.

9. What is the fire rate of spread for other landscaping materials?
Pine Straw – 90, Large Pine Bark – 4.8, Small Pine Bark – 6.3, Cypress – 11.5.

10. What is a “R-4” Home Daycare or Residential Care Home?
A “R-4” Home Daycare provides accommodations for 6 to 16 children for less than a 24-hour period. A “R-4” Residential Care Home provides residential care/assisted living for 6 to 16 occupants.


Jeffery D. Johnson, Fire Marshal
Fire Department
100 N. Academy St.
Cary, N.C. 27511