Hot weather prompts warnings about wildfires

Tall, thick grass crop means extra danger, fire battalion chief says

The Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department (LPFD) 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 fourth.

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 most think of southern California and the fires there as wildfires. "We have just as great a problem and certainly as much potential."

The fire department wants people top 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're wide enough to allow two-way traffic and make sure there that any grades or curves will still let 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 here.

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