Sacramento says residents who fail to clear dry brush could face fines during fire season

By James Taylor, CBS13 photojournalist

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SACRAMENTO (KOVR) – As fire danger increases in the Valley, the city of Sacramento is warning property owners to remove dry grass and weeds. Those who do not may be fined.

Fire officials say vacant lots, overgrown with dry brush, pose a major fire hazard.

“These can quickly spread to fences and then cause attic fires or structure fires,” said Capt. Justin Sylvia of the Sacramento Fire Department. “They move very quickly.”

The weed problem has gotten out of hand on some plots.

“The other day we were at a fire and we saw weeds 10 to 10 feet tall, and that fire was moving,” said Captain Sylvia.

The Sacramento Code Enforcement Department said more than 3,000 properties in the city are covered in weeds a foot or taller. CBS Sacramento obtained a list of the addresses, and it is 86 pages long.

Municipal law requires that properties must be cleared of weeds before April 15 each year. If that doesn’t happen, the land could be declared a public nuisance and the owners could be fined $1,500.

Jennifer Holden of the Mangan Park Neighborhood Association said she would like to see more enforcement.

Holden is concerned about a vacant lot in her neighborhood on 34th Avenue. She said it hasn’t been mowed at all this season and catches fire almost every year.

“Anyone who owns property across the street is getting extremely nervous as the fire trucks line up to protect us all,” Holden said.

Firefighters are encouraging people to mow or disk their properties. But now that the fire risk is increasing, they believe that work should only be done in the morning.

“We want to see that defensible space,” Sylvia said. “We want these weeds taken down, but we want it to be before 10am. If it gets hot, dry and windy, don’t mow that dried-out grass. Wait a second.”

If property owners do not mow or shave their land, the city can hire a contractor to remove the weeds and bill the property owner. People concerned about lots with weeds can report the problem to 3-1-1.

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