Monday, February 25, 2013

Wildfire Danger in Grants Pass

Comment to the Grants Pass City Council, 8/15/12.  Council meeting cancelled for the Fair.
Honorable Councilors, Mayor, and Manager:
          Yesterday, I took an early-morning drive to verify reports that the weeds covering the lot behind Burger King on 7th Street were grown back, dried out, and had not been cut.  I took pictures.
          That’s where the fire started last year that burned up the hill into a little patch of forest and had to be put out with helicopter water drops, a forest fire in our city.  Outside the City, if a fire starts on a property, the owner of the property is liable for up to $100,000.  But after that fire, we didn’t hear anything from the City or the Courier about who owns that property where it started, or how much it cost to put it out. 
The County Commissioners and City Council did hear from me about how it started and why it spread: because the City had not enforced its code against mature and seeding weeds.  It appears that it’s a large property and the fire stayed on it, nearly burning out the residents.  And yet, the City has done nothing to prevent a repetition of that fire, or to prevent another like it.
The other day, we had a garage fire on Rogue River Highway that caught a 75-foot pine on fire, which rained embers all over the neighborhood and caused spot fires in dry grass.  The pine was only a few feet from the garage, but the weeds that were apparently around it helped it catch and then spread the fire down a steep slope to 3 Boys Towing’s fence, where their gravel stopped it.  If our code had been enforced on that property and the surrounding neighborhood, the pine might have burned, but the fire would not have spread far or caused spot fires in dry grass, because there would have been no dry grass.
Our police have their hands tied on lesser crimes of theft and violence; the only power they have is citations since the levy failed.  Give them a job where warnings and citations are the only proper response: enforcing our nuisance codes against weeds and litter.  Such citations take no prosecutors or jail space, and most residents will respond to warnings and not need to be cited. 
Their department is called Public Safety, and combines police and firemen, and yet fire danger is almost completely ignored.  Cutting the weeds on a lot here and there does not decrease fire danger much; our code needs to be enforced on everyone.  Please get our officers out of their cars, walking our neighborhoods, telling people to clean up their act. 

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