The Ceres Fire Department is calling for property owners to keep weeds and grasses to a minimum so they don’t become a fire hazard when things dry out.
The agency is calling its former Weed Abatement Program the “Hazard Abatement Program” to reduce potential fire fuels in anticipation of the upcoming fire season. Besides tall grasses and weeds, the department knows that abandoned vehicles, tires, piles of wood, cardboard and debris can result in fires that spread to structures.
Voluntary compliance letters are going out in the mail to about 150 targeted property owners in Ceres this week. That includes people who own property in excess of a quarter acre or who have had abatement issues in the past, said Ceres Fire Department Battalion Chief Joseph Spani.
Any rains that could come this month or May could add to the total fuel load in Ceres, he said.
“There’s already a large amount of dead and dying grass and shrubs that are ready to go in terms of ignition and burning stages,” said Captain Spani.
The department has move up the program a month to head off any potential fires that are expected with the seasonal warming trend.
The department will be keeping an eye on vacant lots and open fields.
When the department spots a field or lot that presents a potential fire hazard, the property owner will be sent a courtesy notice as a reminder to take care of grass and post a notice on the property. The owner than has 15 days to remedy the problem, such as by hiring individuals who can run a tractor and disc the ground to plow under the weeds. A re-inspection will take place. In situations where the notice goes unanswered without action, the city can order a clean-up and place the expense as a lien on the property.
Spani recommends anyone mowing a field to first clear it of rocks to prevent a blade from striking them and risking the potential for a grass fire from sparks.
Ceres Municipal Code Section 6.05.040 notes that it is the duty of every owner of private property in Ceres to keep their property clear of and remove and destroy all weeds, rubble, rubbish or other rank growths located on their property. Weeds growing upon any lot or tract of land which appears on the assessment roll as a single parcel and exceeds 20 acres in size may be abated by the removal of such weeds from a 30-foot area around the entire perimeter of the parcel and around all structures situated thereon. In all other cases, weeds must be removed from the entire parcel.
Spani said the letter will ask recipients to disregard the notice if they have developed their property or already addressed the hazard that existed the prior year.
Persons who want to anonymously report overgrown weeds or vegetation, can visit www.ci.ceres.ca.us/565/Weed-Abatement to fill out a form.
Because a number of fires occurred along the Tuolumne River last year because of debris left by homeless encampments, Spani said some of that has been mitigated, especially within the Tuolumne River Regional Park north and west of the Mitchell Road Bridge.
“The city of Modesto did a fuel reduction program and they really thinned that area out, especially the problem areas for us in the past. We’re hoping for a reduction of fires in that area.”