The Cambrian

Weed-abatement begins in earnest in Cambria, along with fire danger

San Luis Obispo County’s official town criers, Bev and Jerry Praver, left, join members of Cambria’s FireSafe Focus Group, the Cambria Fire Department and other dignitaries to unveil a sign at the fire station announcing Cambria’s status as a Firewise Community. The designation came about through the efforts of the focus group in developing an action plan that promotes fire safety.
San Luis Obispo County’s official town criers, Bev and Jerry Praver, left, join members of Cambria’s FireSafe Focus Group, the Cambria Fire Department and other dignitaries to unveil a sign at the fire station announcing Cambria’s status as a Firewise Community. The designation came about through the efforts of the focus group in developing an action plan that promotes fire safety. sprovost@thetribunenews.com

Owners of 1,887 vacant parcels within Cambria services district boundaries should have received a mailed message recently, telling them that it’s time to start clearing grasses, brush and other fire fuels from those properties.

Notices “to destroy weeds” were mailed Friday, April 28 by the Cambria Community Services District, Fire Chief William Hollingsworth told district directors at their meeting a day earlier.

Big rains produced big grass and weeds which, in some areas, are already head high. “We hear it every year … ‘this is the worst fire season ever,’” he said. “Obviously we’re in that situation.”

Hollingsworth said it will take “a lot of cutting” this year to bring Cambria properties into compliance with state law and common sense.

Thinking now about clearing weeds may seem a little weird, given that the ground is still wet in many spots, grasses and weeds are still growing and on Tuesday, May 2, more rain was tentatively predicted for the following Sunday through Tuesday.

If people clear the flammables too early, Hollingsworth said, subsequent rains can encourage new growth, which then might have to be recut before the July 15 deadline. “That’s a hassle,” he said, and potentially expensive for those who hire someone to do the clearing.

However, program deadlines have been adjusted a bit to allow for that, Hollingsworth said.

Deadline to clear the properties is July 15, he said. Parcels not cleared according to the Fire Hazard Fuel Reduction Program guidelines will be declared noncompliant at a July 27 hearing and assigned to a contractor for clearing. That contractor will be selected June 22.

As wet and green as it is right now, stuff is already burning.

Cambria Fire Chief William Hollingsworth

No risk yet? Wrong!

Anybody who thinks there’s no fire risk yet, with all the lush green grass and brush, needs to know that “we’ve had nine vegetation fires in the county already this month,” Hollingsworth reported April 27. And there have been several other wildland fires since then. “As wet and green as it is right now, stuff is already burning.”

In last year’s bone-dry summer and fall, Cambria Fire Department sent its water tender out frequently to provide “mutual aid” assistance for firefights in other areas, including out of the county, the chief said. “We’ve sent it out twice already this month.”

The only reason Hollingsworth can do that, he said, is because Cambria Fire has four people on duty at all times. If two of them go out on a mutual aid call on the water tender, “I can keep two people in town, and do callbacks” of other personnel to fill out the on-duty ranks.

The district received more $84,000 in reimbursements for the mutual aid assignments, he said, and firefighters manning the tender get valuable experience that everybody hopes they’ll never have to use in Cambria.

Cal Fire

Any backyard burn permits issued by the Air Pollution Control District will be suspended until the end of fire season, according to an April 29 news release from Cal Fire and APCD.

Cal Fire crews already are patrolling the North Coast and other areas of the county, making their weed-abatement rounds. In Cambria, that includes properties with structures on them.

State law calls for clearance of flammable materials for 100 feet around each habitable structure in areas under Cal Fire’s purview, such as all of the North Coast.

The release also said, “In addition to maintaining adequate defensible space, residents are encouraged to be vigilant and avoid activities that could spark unwanted fires such as mowing dry vegetation during warm, dry or windy weather.”

Kathe Tanner: 805-927-4140

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