San Diego

Ramona Man Fears Fire Threat Posed by Dried Avocado Grove Next Door

As a Ramona man prepares to survive another bout of dangerous fire weather, he can’t help but be afraid of the dangers posed by a dried up 40-acre avocado grove right next to his home.

Jeff Chacksfield lives about a mile east of town and wake up every day to stunning views of Ramona.

One of the best views was the avocado grove next door, but that all changed a few years ago, Chacksfield said.

“It was a full-grown avocado grove, it was wonderful," he said. "Then they sold it and the people that bought it five years ago just abandoned it."

Now, the trees on the 40-acre property are dried up and as the Santa Ana winds kick up again, Chacksfield and his neighbors are on edge, especially since the community has survived two fires in just a week’s time.

A 4-acre brush fire broke out Tuesday along Hanson Lane, and the 97-acre Sawday Fire sparked last Friday along Sawday Truck Trail.

Neither fire caused injuries or major damage, but Chacksfield fears a fire that spreads to the avocado grove could wipe out the whole town.

His neighborhood almost burned down in the 2007 Witch Creek Fire. The fire burned the leaves on the ground of the avocado grove and the flames came close to his house.

"I had to stay here, I wet it down for three days," he said.

He's worried what another fire could do no that the grove is dry.

"That's going to be a nightmare if that catches on fire. It would take the whole town of Ramona out,” Chacksfield said.

No one is living on the property where the avocado grove is and Chacksfield said he's never met or seen the owners.

He said he’s called the fire department to see if anyone can help but he hasn't had much luck.

"We go down to the fire department, they know the property and how bad it is but they can't do anything about it legally because it's private property,” he said.

San Diego County code does say a property does need to 100-feet of defensible space around a structure and the avocado grove is less than 100 feet from Chacksfield’s home.

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