Foreclosure Crisis Adds to Fire Season Dangers in Rural Areas

It's one thing for neighbors to deal with unsightly yards which haven't been landscaped. Some abandoned rural homes are much more dangerous because they're surrounded by dry weeds and brush.

The dry brush surrounding a north Clovis home perfectly illustrates the early arrival of fire season. The weeds lead all the way up to the front door. Warm weather has put us 2-3 weeks ahead of schedule.

Steve Mata lives next door and worries the dead vegetation could serve as fuel for a fire. Mata said "Concerns of just in case of a fire or any hazards that way, We're always afraid that they may spread out to other homes, not just mine but other homes too." The flood of foreclosures has left many homes abandoned. Some are more than just eyesores. They also pose fire hazards.

But Cal Fire Captain Chris Christoperson says it can difficult to track down homeowners or out-of-town investors who have lost homes to foreclosure. Christopherson said "Sometimes it will take 2-3 months to find a responsible to take care of that property. In some of those cases we'll actually have to have someone come out clear the property and then we'll put a lien on that property that will be compensated later."

Tractors are often needed to clear property and establish safety zones. Dry grass must be disced or mowed to a four-inch length. Lots in rural areas are often bigger so dry brush poses a danger for neighboring properties. Mata said "I start thinking about down in the southern California area because of the fires that are happening down there. I don't want the same thing happening here." Fresno County fire crews have begun their inspections. They're reminding homeowners a 100-foot clearance is ideal.

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