Tall weeds may pose fire hazard but not a priority just yet

May 3, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The hot dry weather has brought an early start to the fire season in Fresno, but the city budget is hindering fire prevention efforts.

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The city's program to get residents to grass and weeds down has been cut back in recent years, raising the risk of fires.

This field in Northwest Fresno ignited Thursday.

Flames scorched the fences, and firefighters had to go into back yards to keep the fire away from homes.

They aren't sure how the fire started, but the tall dry grass and weeds in the vacant land gave it plenty of fuel. Unlike Fresno County, the city of Fresno doesn't set a May first deadline for property owners to trim their weeds.

Fresno firefighter Koby Johns told Action News: "I sure wish there was."

Neighbor Osiris D'Acosta, who's fence was damaged by Thursdays fire is frustrated.

"I have no idea where to go. Who is responsible for that area, the city of Fresno, I don't know so I didn't know where to go. "

The city's code enforcement office is the place to go.

Code Enforcement Officer Kevin Watkins told Action News: "Tall dry grass and weeds really are a concern we realize they are a fire hazard."

But Watkins notes the city disbanded it's "weed team" due to budget cuts a couple of years ago. Now operating with a reduced staff code enforcement officers inspect the more than four thousand vacant lots in the city when they can, along with all of their duties. Their main obligation is dealing with substandard housing.

"We are more looking at the actual conditions people are living in every day, that becomes a higher priority than a vacant lot, for most of the year."

But Watkins says weedy lots will soon start getting more attention.

"As we get closer to June we will raise them in level in priority the inspectors will be out there pro-actively looking at these lots and addressing them. Property owners will be getting their notification and if they don't follow through with that the city will hire a contractor have the abatement done and bill the property owner."

The goal is to have things cleaned up by the fourth of July, when fireworks often start fires.

But residents who notice problems, that is any property with grass or weeds more than 6 inches tall that pose a fire hazard can call code enforcement now, the number is 621-8400.

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