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Weed abatement burning issue for firefighters
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The warm, dry weather has returned to Northern California after an unusually wet winter.
And that means that the weeds have returned as well.
This week those that haven’t stayed on top of their weed abatement within the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District will be getting their final notices before fines are levied – the first wave of citations that are expected to be issued throughout the fire season as crews work to promote safe practices around inhabited buildings to prevent fires.
And unlike last year, the abundance of rain has created a scenario in which weeds have had everything they needed to grow just about everywhere that land isn't maintained – making enforcement even more prudent as the weeds grow back taller and thicker than in years past.
“Wind events and changing weather patterns continue to dry out weeds and vegetation rapidly,” said Lathrop-Manteca Battalion Chief Larry Madoski. “I wouldn’t say that they’re drying out earlier than in previous years, but with the wind events and weather we’ve definitely seen a rapid decrease in the moisture in vegetation and that’s causing them to dry out faster than what we’ve seen before.”
According to the municipal code and the fire code throughout the district, for lots that are less than two acres in size the entire property must be abated of weeds taller than four inches – meaning that they must be cut and removed to comply – and on properties larger than two acres, there must be a 30-foot fire break around any structure and a 10-foot break around farmland or pastures.
Those that are deemed to be beyond the final notice without compliance are then assessed a daily charge until the abatement is completed. If it persists, the district has the legal capability to hire a crew to go out and do the work and then charge the person not in compliance – going so far as to place a lien against the property if they fail to meet the financial obligation.
And it has to do with a lot more than just maintain one’s yard for the sake of appearances.
In Madoski’s career he has seen dead grass and vegetation serve an accelerant and help fire spread from one dwelling to another rapidly – thanks to the hot temperatures that grasses burn at and the speed at which they can be fully consumed.
“It becomes a very volatile situation – I have seen those conditions burn homes before, and they burn at explosive rates where the heat can dry out other vegetation very rapidly and then burn that as well,” Madoski said. “And it just ends up adding more fuel to the existing fire.
“It’s something that needs to be maintained throughout the fire season because of the threat that it poses and how quickly it become a factor in a fire.”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.