Inspections of fire-hazard conditions on vacant lots have begun in Cambria. Property owners have until July 22 to remove downed trees, dry brush, weeds and other fire fodder.
As of early Tuesday, July 5, Ryan Maloney, engineer with the Cambria Fire Department, estimated he has done preliminary checks on about 100 of the approximately 2,000 lots on the Cambria Community Services District’s “Fire Hazard Fuel Reduction” work list. Those early inspections are based on reports Maloney receives from local contractors when they’ve finished clearing specific properties at the request of individual landowners.
Likewise, Cal Fire inspectors have been checking the conditions of properties with structures for some time.
Guidelines for each category are posted at www.cambriacsd.org/cm/fire-safety/fire_prevention/fuel_hazard.html and www.readyforwildfire.org/Prepare-For-Wildfire.
People who own the lots on the community services district’s list were notified they had to do the annual clearing of fire fodder. However, fire experts say the same fire fuels should be removed from any property. Those materials include downed trees, dry brush or weeds, especially the “ladder fuels” that reach from the ground to the branched areas of trees and can carry flames to the crown.
Also, any flammables should be removed from the area around any structure, according to Cal Fire regulations.
Maloney said that includes grasses and greenery, trash, junk and woodpiles. Even barbecues should be placed away from a building, as an embarrassed Lodge Hill resident discovered to his chagrin recently; a charcoal lighter placed next to his house lit a fire in decorative bark in the area. He extinguished the small blaze before firefighters arrived.
The ‘weeds are really dry’
If the required vacant-lot clearing isn’t completed by the deadline, the community services district will hire a contractor to do the work, according to district regulations. The district will then bill the property owner for the work, plus a $200 administration fee, though there may be a discount if the bill is paid quickly.
Even though the area received some rain this winter, local precipitation was below normal, Maloney said.
“That contributes to the continuing dryness” in the aging native Monterey pine forest that is filled with dying, dead, fallen and drying trees.
He said the timing of last season’s rainfall probably encouraged excessive growth of grasses and weeds on the North Coast, which grew exceptionally tall in some areas this spring.
“And now those weeds are really dry” in most Cambria areas, he said, and they’ve turned into prime fire fodder.
“It’s important for people to get it out of there,” Maloney stressed, saying that removing those fuels is a safety issue for people and the forest.