MOON TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — The loss was staggering.

A Moon Township family could do nothing but watch as firefighters did their best to fight flames consuming their home. You can only imagine their reaction when the Allegheny County Fire Marshall told them a bird is suspected of starting the fire. Specifically, by using damp hay to make a nest.

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The compacted hay decomposed and caught fire.

Pittsburgh Fire Bureau Chief Darryl Jones, who has a PhD in public safety, says birds might not be the first thought, but investigators sometimes end up there.

Jones says officials begin to believe this explanation “when a fire starts in the eves of roofs where a bird has a nest and there’s no other logical cause.”

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The chance of a bird picking up something and lighting your house on fire is remote, but mulch can be a fire hazard.

Chief Jones says it’s the same chemical reaction that investigators suspect in the Moon Township birds nest.

“Mulch is actually decomposing natural materials, plants and other things, and when they decompose the process gives off heat. It can give off a sufficient amount of heat to ignite,” he said.

If it’s piled up against your house, the mulch can smolder and eventually catch the aluminum siding on fire.

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The thicker the layer of mulch the higher the risk of fire. To prevent it, Jones says to keep it moist. Also, take a rake and spread it out so the heat is dissipated.