I’ve written here previously about overgrown weeds at various gateway-type properties within the city, both for the unsightly appearance at these key locations and also because of the fire danger such overgrown dry grasses and weeds present.
Drought conditions this year make it imperative that we all do our part to minimize the potential for wildfires within the city.
Fairfield firefighters and their counterparts in other communities and in the county are engaged in specialized training in large part due to what’s expected to be an active fire season. They are also working to ensure that vacant property within the city is clear of potential wildfire fuel.
Firefighters seek our help to blunt what’s expected to be a dangerous fire season. The danger: Dry grass and brush across the region – material that’s prime fuel for grass fires.
Fairfield residents are used to the seasonal greening and browning of the grasses and brush in the surrounding foothills. The same is true of vacant lots in town – and landscaping that surrounds homes and businesses.
The city has guidelines for clearing dry grasses and brush within the city limits, guidelines that could cost you some cash if you don’t comply and the city has to take care of the situation for you. Failure to comply can also cost you your home or business should the tall, dry grass and brush ignite.
Fairfield’s rules cover property owned or maintained by the city and any undeveloped or developed private property within the city. These rules cover how properties are to be maintained during fire season to limit the potential for a wildfire that could threaten people or property. For example, dry grasses and weeds must be cut to a height of 4 inches or less — and maintained at that height for the duration of fire season, which typically begins in May and ends in October.
This year’s drought extended that time frame across vast swaths of the state.
The regulations also outline the process used by the city to remove dry brush, weeds and grasses should private property owners fail to do so. Equally important, the rules outline how the city will collect its costs for doing so, from the property owners.
It’s no secret we’re in the midst of a drought. The relief we saw with some early spring rainfall, while blunting the effects of the regional drought to some degree, actually set things in motion for a bad fire season. That’s because grasses that had essentially withered due to lack of rainfall got a new burst of life – and growth – before finally dying off for the season.
Fairfield Battalion Chief Bob Stoffel said this week that the area’s dry grasses are taller and drier than last year, a year that saw the city’s largest fire in modern times.
We all remember the Aug. 27, 2013, Marigold Fire, a wind-whipped monster that destroyed or damaged several homes, prompted what was arguably the largest regional response in the city’s history, and made national news. That fire was fueled in large part by tall grasses located behind the homes along Marigold Drive. We are fortunate that the fire didn’t spread farther than it did, and that no one was killed in the inferno.
So as firefighters get the word out about the importance of maintaining vacant property to protect against wildfires, and as fire officials across the state talk of “defensible space” – a clear barrier of 30 to 100 feet around your home – I add my call to the chorus: If you are responsible for some property, make sure that grasses, weeds and shrubs are kept in check. This includes grasses and weeds near homes.
You can also help firefighters by letting them know about any properties that pose a fire hazard. You can do so by calling 428-7065 or sending an email to email@example.com.
If you want more information about how to prepare yourself, your family and your home for a possible wildfire, visit www.readyforwildfire.org. The site offers tips for people to make their homes more resistant to wildfires and to ensure that families are ready to evacuate early and safely when a wildfire strikes.
I don’t want to see another Marigold-type of fire this season in Fairfield. I suspect you don’t, either. So let’s all pull together and make this the safest fire season possible within the city.
Reach Glen Faison at 427-6925 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GlenFaison.