Pleasanton Weekly

News - June 18, 2010

Hot weather prompts warnings about wildfires

Tall, thick grass crop means extra fire danger

by Glenn Wohltmann

The Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department is telling local residents to get ready: It's wildfire season.

The fire department has begun its annual letter-writing campaign, telling property owners to take action, or face the possibility that the city will do it for them -- then put a lien on their home.

Battalion Chief Barry Rose said the letters went out the third week of May, giving people 30 days to get their property ready. Inspections will begin after July 4.

Rose said many people don't realize the risk of living near a wildland urban interface area, where homes abut grasslands or wooded areas.

"People don't usually think of themselves as threatened," Rose said, explaining that most think of wildfires as being in Southern California. "We have just as great a problem and certainly as much potential."

The fire department wants people to mow their grass to a height of three inches or less, or maintain landscaping for a 100-foot radius around their homes. That lets firefighters get between a fire and their home. Trees should have their branches cut at least five feet off the ground, and people should clear any flammable materials like dried leaves or pine needles from their gutters.

Homeowners with long driveways should make sure they are wide enough to allow two-way traffic and that any grades or curves will still allow firefighting equipment through. It's also important that people have their addresses clearly posted.

Although the emergency dispatchers can identify a property based on where a 911 call comes from, often those calls are made from a cell phone or a neighbor, which can cause problems arriving at the scene.

Rose said fires aren't just a risk in the summer.

"The danger's there at any time," he said. "People need to take precautions all the time."

A checklist for homeowners is available [www.firedepartment.org. here].

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