The Cambrian

Rain brings green grass & high weeds

W eed abatement work has begun in Cambria, with the sound of weed-eaters ringing through the canyons.

This year, more chain-saw chatter is apt to join that symphony, because the Cambria Fire Department is requiring those who own vacant land to remove fallen logs that would have been judged OK to leave in the past.

As turf and duff dry out in summer and fall, those items can become fire hazards. So, state and local laws require property owners to clear potential tinder from undeveloped lots and around their homes.

Wild grasses are exceptionally tall this year, and weeds are thick and lush. By the end of April, Cambria had received nearly 25 inches of rain as the winter storm pattern extended late into spring.

Cambria Community Services District mailed 1,858 notices April 10 about how and when combustibles must be removed from vacant lots during the annual rite of wild vegetation reduction known as “weed abatement.” Property owners must trim weeds and annual grasses to 4 inches in height, but are urged not to denude the land. The district’s notice reminds people to “avoid exposing bare soil or creating a situation that would encourage erosion.”

Fire Chief Mark Miller said there are a lot of big logs and heavy branches on the ground throughout the forested area. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. contractors removed trees near power lines, leaving many logs behind. Stiff winter and spring winds blew down many more of the notoriously shallow-rooted Monterey pines and other trees.

While it takes years before those logs dry out and decompose enough to become a real fire hazard, Miller said they are unsightly and can make firefighting more dangerous. He said he didn’t know if the log-removal requirement would remain in next year’s notice to property owners.

District regulations say that clearing must be done by June 15, with inspections beginning the following day. On June 20, a district contractor (who will be selected May 27) will begin clearing any properties on which the necessary work hasn’t been completed. The district then adds the cost of that contract work and administering the program to the affected property tax bills.