A homeless man who started a fire in weeds as high as 18 inches in a bid to cook eggs Tuesday underscored the stakes in this year’s Manteca Fire Department weed abatement effort that is now underway.
Firefighters received a 911 call shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday reporting that a man appeared to be setting fire to weeds growing in an empty lot on the south side of Yosemite Avenue near Pestana Avenue and adjacent to a hotel east of Highway 99.
When firefighters arrived they found some smoke coming from behind a small shed on the property. They located the homeless man cooking shelled eggs on a makeshift stove. The firefighters immediately become the target of verbal altercations and threats. The firefighters asked him to leave the property and he became even more agitated as he was ushered out the front gate of the lot while he continued to berate them and fling his arms in the air and shout at the three men.
A camera man on the scene also became the source of his anger. The homeless man told them all that he had connections and would have all of their badges. At one point he finally decided to leave and walked down the sidewalk toward the east, quickly changing his direction and walking back toward the men. He stopped four feet short of one of them and reached into a cloth bag he had over his shoulder and pulled out a piece of broken glass – claiming that was his large diamond.
After a thorough vocal display he walked toward Highway 99 running over to the other side of Yosemite Avenue with Manteca Police officers arriving and quickly detaining him near the ARCO service station and convenience store near Button Avenue.
He was detained in a police car while an officer drove back across the street to the scene of the altercation and asked the accounts of witnesses.
Officer Dave Brown told the man that he would be considered to be trespassing if he returned to the property where he had started the fire. With that, he was allowed to go on his way.
It is not uncommon for homeless to start outdoor cooking fires in vacant lot or inside abandoned or vacant buildings. In recent years such fires have destroyed or gutted at least six buildings in Manteca.
Weed abatement is
more critical this year
Unusually heavy weed growth triggered by a series of storms in January and February prompted the Manteca Fire Department to move its weed abatement efforts up a full month starting them on April 1.
Urban grass fires can be just as destructive as wildland fires. In June of 2008 three grass fires along Interstate 5 got out of control in Stockton north of March Lane thanks to high winds. There were 33 homes damages with in condominiums and three single-family homes destroyed.
Firefighters over a two-week period inspect all properties that they can see from their fire engine cab from streets as well as alleys. Properties found to be in violation of the city’s weed abatement ordinance will be sent a courtesy notice requesting the property owner to voluntarily comply by cutting or destroying the weeds or vegetation within 30 days.
If property owners fail to comply, the city will hire an independent contractor to mow the property. The property owner is then billed for the work. If they opt not to pay, the city places a lien against their property.
Property owners are also subject to a $100 fine for the first infraction and $200 fine for subsequent infractions.
And while homeowners under the city’s emergency drought rules have the option of letting their lawns die, they still must keep what is left under control terms of how high it can stand.
If you have questions about the Weed Abatement Program or would like to report a property that isn’t being maintained, call the Fire Prevention Bureau at (209) 456.8340.
The fire hazard abatement rules apply to more than just weeds. It also includes rubbish, dirt, trash, grass, dead trees, vegetation or other materials which constitute a public nuisance.
Specifically, the following standards apply within Manteca’s city limits:
uProperty of 1/2 acre or more: Mow all vegetation to a maximum of 4 to 6 inches in height. Remove all grass, weeds or debris from the property. Disc or till the entire property. (In the process of abating property, keep dust production to a minimum to ensure compliance with Manteca Municipal Code Section 8.17 - Prevention of airborne sand, soil or dust traveling to neighboring properties in visible amounts.)
uProperty of 1/2 acre or less: Mow all vegetation to a maximum of 4 to 6 inches in height. Rake and remove all dry grass.
uTrees and shrubs: All dead trees, shrubs and bushes must be cut down and removed from the property. Prunings must also be removed from the property.
uAlleys: Mow all grass and/ or weeds to a maximum of 4 to 6 inches in height. Fence lines must be clean and free of weeds. Any and all combustibles must be removed. This includes, but is not limited to, trash, rubbish, dry grass, prunings, clippings, auto parts and furniture. Property owners are responsible for the maintenance of the alley from the property line to the center of the alley.
uAll properties: All weeds, rubbish, excess dirt, trash, dry vegetation, discarded furniture, appliances, garbage, auto parts or other material which constitutes a public nuisance, must be abated from the property fence line to fence line.
For abatement of inoperable and/ or abandoned vehicles contact the Code Enforcement Officer at 456.-8156.
To contact Glenn Kahl, email email@example.com.