Local fire departments are getting the word out: it's the homeowner's responsibility to clear all that new growth on your property.
A California law requires homeowners to keep their houses in compliance with California’s building and fire codes to protect their property from a wildfire.
Tom Giaquinto loves living on a Spring Valley hillside. However, the closeness of each home to all of the green conjures visions of wildfires.
“The fires were very devastating. And it’s one of the reasons we have to keep these hillsides clear,” said Giaquinto.
That’s why Giaquinto has spent hundreds of dollars chopping down all the weeds behind his property.
“It’s when people don’t take care of their property that we have issues,” said San Miguel Fire and Rescue Chief, Criss Brainard.
Brainard said the rain has created even more issues.
“This rain is fantastic, and now there are green and lush hillsides, but they’re going to get dry causing to have fires this summer,” said Brainard.
To get ahead of that, fire departments all over California need people like Giaquinto to clear the brush on their property.
“Plus, you could be fined,” said Giaquinto.
Chief Brainard said they would give people plenty of warning. They’ll even send firefighters to ask a homeowners personally to clear their brush.
If all that fails, several fire departments, including San Miguel, have contracted with a private company to forcibly go onto a property, clear the brush, and then send the owner the bill. And if that bill doesn’t get paid, the private company can put a lien on the home.
“Potentially it could save lives,” said Brainard.
Last year, Brainard said they sent 1,200 notices to homeowners. They only had to forcibly clear brush 36 times. According to our reporting partners at the Voice of San Diego, the private company has put liens on approximately 250 homes in the past 20 years because homeowners didn't clear their property and didn't pay their bill.
“If they don’t clear their hillside and it adjoins mine, there’s a good chance it’s going to affect my property,” said Giaquinto.