The fourth fire this month along freeways that pass through Manteca and Lathrop is prompting fire officials to urge motorists to be careful and for people to abate weeds.
A fire Tuesday afternoon along Highway 99 and Austin Road near a propane distribution center burned just over an acre of dried grass and brush.. It took firefighters several hours to make sure all potential hot spots were extinguished.
The cause of the fire was unknown.
Officials noted that most of the fires along the 120 Bypass corridor and Highway 99 are often the result of careless behavior although in the past there have been arson fires.
Vehicles dragging parts such as mufflers along the freeway can create sparks that start fires. Tossed cigarettes also get their share of blame. Even the operation of landscaping equipment near and along freeways have been known to start fires just as they each year get blamed for fires in forest lands.
Grass fires along the freeways can be especially precarious as wind blown smoke can often blind drivers.
More than 20 years ago a brush fire in the southeast quadrant of the 1230 Bypass/Highway 99 interchange blew smoke across the freeway disorientating a northbound motorist who ended up driving off the pavement and into the area that was burning. A disabled passenger ended up dying from smoke inhalation.
Wildfires fanned by winds burning through weeds can hit Manteca and the rest of the Northern San Joaquin Valley just like they do in hilly terrain throughout Northern California.
Last year four homes were destroyed when a grass fire spread through a portion of the Islander Mobile Home Park near the end of West Woodward Avenue in rural Manteca.
Two years ago, a grass fire destroyed four homes and heavily damaged four others in Stockton.
And 14 years ago, a grass fire along Interstate 5 near March Lane got out of control and destroyed 36 homes in Stockton.
It is why Manteca Fire Department is enforcing weed abatement rules especially since a third year of drought has vegetation drier than normal.
Weed abatement is now being enforced by:
*Fire crews that note problematic properties when they are returning from calls or are moving about the city on non-emergency business.
*Complaints driven by citizens.
*The department inspecting properties that have been habitual offenders.
The city’s weed ordinance requires grass and weeds be shorter than 6 inches in height.
If a violation exists, the property owner will receive a written courtesy notice requesting the property owner to cut the weeds or vegetation within 30 days of the written notice. If the property owner fails to comply within the given time, the City will then proceed to hire an independent contractor to mow the property.
The owner will be responsible for the cost of the contractor’s work. In addition to the abatement costs, the property owner will also receive a municipal infraction citation with a mandatory penalty of $100 for the first offense, and $200 for each subsequent offense.
Rules for weed control can be found in Municipal Code Chapter 8.16 and are available for viewing on the city’s website at www.ci.manteca.ca.us. If you have questions about the weed abatement program or would like to report a property that is not being maintained, call the Fire Prevention Bureau at (209) 456-8340.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org