Danville Express

Newsfront - April 13, 2007

Wildfire danger

Fire department sends abatement notices to residents

by Jordan M. Doronila

Wildfire flames could quickly spread over Danville's pastures, hills and open space if residents fail to maintain their land.

To quell potential fiery disasters before they begin, firefighters mailed out notices last month to residents in Danville, Alamo, Diablo and San Ramon, informing them they must properly abate their property, said officials in the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District.

"I want stress to the community the importance of doing the work and maintenance," said Erick Hubbard, district prevention specialist. "The more work you do, the better off you'll be."

The notices say that cutting an overgrowth of grasses, weeds, shrubbery or trees helps prevent wildfires. The public outreach is part of the district's Exterior Hazard Abatement Program, which is conducted every spring and summer.

Residents can abate their property by creating a defensive space around it, planting landscaping, cutting weeds and managing trees or taking away dead trees or shrubbery, Hubbard said.

"It's asset protection," Hubbard said. "We are trying to get (the message) to the public that it's your responsibility."

"You're protecting your family and property," he added.

The district often sends notices to residents who have property by ridgelines, open space or dry areas that are prone to wildfires during California's hot summer days. Hubbard said Alamo's Round Hill golf course's hilly area is prone to wildfires.

Hubbard said the fires occur in the heat and can be caused by lightning or manmade actions, such as throwing a burning cigarette in a field or failing to douse a campfire properly. The dryness of shrubbery causes it to be highly ignitable.

Residents with property that could be a fire danger have received a written letter from Fire Chief Craig Bowen about the abatement notification and a yellow sheet comprising the minimum abatement standards. When they have completed their maintenance work, they fill out a reply card, which came with the notice, and send it back to the district.

All residents in the San Ramon Valley must abate their property, according to county and local enforcement guidelines, Hubbard said.

If residents fail to do so, especially after receiving several courtesy notices, the district will hire a contractor to abate their land and will bill the work to them. If they do not pay the bill, the district has the authority to place a lien on their house until it is paid.

Hubbard noted the district doing the work costs residents two to three times as much money as doing the maintenance themselves.

The abatement program costs around $17,000 for supplies and posting mailers and has been running for more than 20 years. It costs an additional $10,000 for contractors to maintain property.

The program runs until October. The district hopes all residents will send replies that they have abated their properties by June 1, Hubbard said.

"We are always trying to improve the program to make it as efficient as possible," he said.

For more information about the Exterior Hazard Abatement Program, visit www.srvfpd.dst.ca.us or telephone the district at 838-6600.

Contact Jordan M. Doronila at jdoronila@DanvilleWeekly.com


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