MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) --Many local fire departments will start inspecting properties for overgrown weeds early next month. They said the wet winter has vegetation growing taller and faster than we've seen since the last El Nino.
Green grass is a welcome sight after four years of drought, but the wet weather has also helped weeds grow several feet tall in some areas and it's only a matter of time before they start turning brown. "This grass reacts very quickly to these warmer temperatures, so, you're going to see it dry right out," said Division Chief Mark Lawson, Merced County Cal Fire.
Lawson is now joining the chiefs of Merced and Los Banos in urging residents to eliminate the fire danger before it's too late. "If the property owners aren't out there helping us, help them, by abating these properties and providing that clearance-- then that could result in pretty tragic conditions," said Lawson.
They're especially concerned about vacant properties, because of several cases of homeless people taking shelter and accidentally sparking fires which can spread. "We have a lot of abandoned homes still in all the cities in the County, and so, we highly encourage the neighbors of these properties to take action. If they see a backyard of a vacant structure has not been abated, please give your local fire department a call," said Chief Tim Marrison, Los Banos Fire Dept.
Crews plan to start doing inspections the first week of April.
In Los Banos, the city can have licensed contractors do the work if property owners won't-- and then give them the bill. In Merced, violators can also be held financially responsible. "There will be penalties if we do have fires on properties we've sent notices to, we will be billing them for suppression efforts, and, if we send out crews to abate the weeds there can be liens placed on their property," said Chief Shawn Henry, Merced City Fire Dept.
One other concern this year is the possibility for re-growth if we get more rain in the next month or so. The chiefs said residents may be required to do a second round of abatement if the weeds and grass grow too tall again.