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Reducing rural fire risk in San Luis Obispo County

Posted at 10:42 PM, Jun 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-05 02:16:35-04

Every city across San Luis Obispo County has mandatory rules when it comes to maintaining weeds.

From Paso Robles to the Five Cities, every city has a weed abatement ordinance.

The SLO County Grand Jury found that the unincorporated areas in the county do not.

Those places are not totally without rules, but the Grand Jury wants there to be more enforcement.

“Grass is the most important and keeping dead fuel away from houses,” said Barbara Alvis, an Atascadero resident.

Alvis thinks all local cities and counties should have specific rules when it comes to cutting dry grass around homes.

The San Luis Obispo County Grand Jury agrees.

In a fire risk report released Tuesday, the Grand Jury found that while all cities had weed abatement ordinances, the county did not.

“I do think they get more lax, but I don’t think that is any fault of the fire department because i know they are sending the message,” said Alvis.

There may not be a local weed abatement ordinance for unincorporated areas, but there is a state law.

“4291 states that you must maintain 100 ft clearance around your home or up to the property line,” said Scott Jalbert, CAL FIRE SLO chief.

With recent catastrophic fires on everyone’s mind, the grand jury now wants another policy to lessen local fire risk even more.

“We’ve kind of changed force, changed direction to put a lot more emphasis on prevention and fuel reduction than we have in the last decade.”

However, he says it’s a lot of ground to cover for one agency with four inspectors.

“Required to inspect all 58,000 homes, but it would also require us to inspect all 1.4 million acres,” said Jalbert.

To get it all done, it would likely take more bodies and more money.

Currently, CAL FIRE SLO inspectors are visiting higher risk areas to make sure people follow the state law.

However, they can’t get to everyone, so they are asking homeowners to do their part in reducing fire risk on their properties.

According to the report, the Grand Jury is asking the SLO County Board of Supervisors to approve an ordinance by the end of 2020-21 fiscal year.