The Coast News Group

Drought triggers RSF Fire to be more persistent with abatement program

RANCHO SANTA FE — The recent Bernardo Fire coupled with the southern California drought has triggered the RSF Fire Protection District to be more persistent than ever in terms of their abatement program. In tandem, educating and supporting their residents is also the goal.

“We have been talking for some time now that we have been in a prolonged drought and our fuel moistures are at critical levels and have been since February,” said Tony Michel, fire chief of the RSF Fire Protection District. “And they don’t hit that critical level until late summer.”

Michel went on to say that because of this, citizens really need to be diligent and to make sure they listen to what the Fire Protection District is reporting, including the letters they send out.

Additionally, if property owners have questions about their defensible space, they are encouraged to call the District and ask. An appointment can also be scheduled to inspect the property to be sure it does fit defensible space guidelines.

Julie Taber, public information officer of the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District, said property owners are required to remove or modify native brush and grass within 100 feet of any structure.

Michel also wanted to add, “Citizens have to be diligent and if they see something out of the ordinary or are concerned, they need to contact the Fire Prevention District.”

The Fire Chief said if someone gets a violation notice, they should address it as soon as possible. The notices, Michel said, are specific for a particular property.

The abatement letters were sent out to RSF citizens last month; and, staff members continually work on these abatement letters.

“From there, we have a few inspectors that go out and inspect properties” he said. Michel continued, “We can only go on public access ways to see and we cannot go on a private property to look at people’s vegetation.”

If the District notices something of concern, then there will be a homeowner violation request.

There are also cases where homeowners may invite a weed abatement officer over if they feel their neighbor and/or neighbors are not complying with the defensible space requirements.

For example, if a neighbor’s property line has dead native brush which comes within 100 feet of their neighbor’s residential home or structure, then the district may be of assistance.

“We can’t go onto someone’s property uninvited, but if a resident has a concern, and if it was visible from their property and we could see it from there, then we can address it with the neighbor,” Taber said.

The abatement program, Michel wants residents to be aware of, also includes roadways. Public roadways need to be regularly maintained to ensure brush is abated to prevent any fire from spreading from the roadway onto a structure.

“And we need to maintain those roadways for evacuation routes for our public if we need them,” Michel said.

Michel attributed the zero loss of residential structures during Bernardo Fire to not only the heroic efforts of the firefighters, but to also their abatement program, and their residents who have given their full attention to their own property abatement.

“This type of fire prevention will give firefighters a lot more advantage and also keep them safe when protecting your residence,” Michel said.

To schedule an appointment with a weed abatement officer, please call the RSF Fire Protection District at (858) 756-5971.