Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Insurance Companies Sue Landowner

Speech to the Grants Pass City Council, 1/16/2013.  Video of the meeting is available at:
Honorable Councilors, Manager, and Staff:
          You might recall a fire in Ashland a few years ago, which was started by a transient camping in a grassy field and burned eleven homes.  Back in November, an article appeared in the Oregonian, telling us that several insurance companies have sued the owner of the vacant lot where the fire started for the $1.7 million they paid out in claims on 6 homes.
          The companies said that the property was in violation of state and local codes, and the owners allowed a "dangerous accumulation of waste and overgrown brush…that created an extreme fire hazard."  They say that the owners were warned by neighbors that vagrants were camping in the field. 
          Grants Pass is full of vacant properties that violate our city nuisance and safety hazard codes by allowing weeds to go to seed, noxious growth like blackberries and scotch broom, litter, and camping.  We had a forest fire just off of 7th Street in fall of 2011, complete with water drops, from dry grass and flammable brush right behind Burger King.  And this city owns a piece of property that has a dangerous accumulation of blackberries, scotch broom, and grass beneath oak, pine, and madrone trees, on the hill above F Street west of the 1100 block, in the midst of new, expensive homes.
          We have better fire control outside the City than within it, thanks to federal grants to clear brush.  We have lately had a city “Firewise Coordinator” to help people in the city to clear brush and weeds as well, but few takers, possibly because the grants are a limited reimbursement—the same deal as in the country.  And our public safety department now wants to buy a “Wildfire Tactical Pumper” to handle wildfires in the City.
          I don’t see how any truck is going to help you if that F Street property catches fire; there is no road into the property.  It would again require helicopter drops to fight.  You have homes on the top of the hill next to your land, as well as below.  Teens party on the top of that hill, leaving litter.  It’s not as handy for vagrants as the private property below it on the lower side of F Street, where there is plentiful evidence of camping in the Scotch broom and blackberries near the railroad.
          We don’t need a wildfire tactical rig; we need to enforce and follow our nuisance codes.  If they were enforced, there would be no wildfire danger in this city, and fewer disorderly vagrants.
Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener       541-955-9040

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