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Weed abatement: Keeping properties safe while reducing fire risk

Posted at 6:44 PM, Aug 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-22 22:17:46-04

Wildfires are a year-round possibility in California, and that means fire crews and residents also work year-round to keep that risk to a minimum.

Many cities and counties have ordinances requiring weed abatement. Usually, that means property owners have to keep their grasses and weeds under four inches and maintain 100 feet of defensible space around their homes.

As summer continues, so do the hotter, dryer, and longer days, which can increase the potential for a fire.

"We've had several vegetation fires start (and) once they bump up against a property owner's parcel that they've done really good weed management on, the fire will just fizzle out," said Colette Layton, Atascaderod Fire Department Engineer-Paramedic PIO.

Keeping weeds cut and maintained can be difficult for property owners, but those efforts help to substantially cut down a fire's growth.

"For this year with the high rains, we've really been having to stay after it, mowing pretty much every month if not every three weeks," said Jeffrey Mestmaker, south Atascadero resident.

Mestmaker lives just outside the Atascadero city limits, meaning there are different regulations he must follow.

"CAL FIRE was out inspecting the first week of July after the June 1st deadline. We saw them out here inspecting the properties, just making sure that us and our fellow neighbors were all compliant with the rules and regulations," Mestmaker said.

He says he passed the inspection, but CAL FIRE Public Information Officer Adan Orozco says those who don't are given 30 days to fix the issue before a second inspection.

Property owners are given multiple chances to comply, but if the work doesn't get done, they can be cited and could end up in court.

For city residents, there's a different process if properties don't comply the first time.

"Our fire marshall will go back, inspect all those property owner's parcels to make sure that if they need the work done, then we have our city contractor go back to those properties and perform the work," Layton said.

Click here to learn more about how to create defensible space around your home.