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Evil Weeds

While communities across the state are drafting guidelines on how to deal with one kind of “grass” facing legalization, there’s one type of weed Californians will always crack down on–the old fashioned yard kind.

“If it was just grass it would have been much easier this year,” explained Michelle Pearson, administrative assistant for Cal Fire Pismo Beach, “The difference [after drought breaking rains] was the thickness of vegetation. It’s native ground cover particularly coyote bush which grows bigger and bigger every year. California native groundcover grows thick and fast in a year like this and we just need people to eliminate the fuel.”

Fortunately, Cal Fire Battalion Chief Paul Lee told the Pismo Beach City Council at their August 1 meeting, “the community did a fantastic job,” responding to clearance requests after Spring 2017.

In addition to their usual efforts, the fire department was able to “create a new defensible space” behind the homes on El Portal Drive in Sunset Palisades.

A long time problem area in fire season, Lee suggested it was worth a trip, “If you want to see a textbook example of a clean up,” in addition to being a beautiful hike.

Contractors chewed up a corridor along the hillside as well as at Chumash Park in town with a machine known as a “masticator,” to create fire safe zones.

Lee also reported that cattle grazing has resumed this year inside the Pismo Preserve, the best way he knows to control vegetation in an open space that size.

Pismo Beach Mayor Ed Waage said the Council was was well aware that it’s a “terrible” fire year, with the battalion Chief having recently returned from a major blaze.

“We appreciate that we’ve had excellent compliance,” he said, before opening the floor to the handful of property owners that would be able to protest having their weeds cleared by a City contractor with the bill to be added to their County tax bill.

There weren’t any present.

That’s in part, Pearson said, because the folks that don’t respond to letters and abatement notices after the first inspection ground in April are out of towners or absentee lot owners, which explains why notice of one of the fees was sent to an address in Tokyo, Japan at $350.   A group of in investors in Arroyo Grande might have gotten off easier than their $1,600 charge to have hired someone local however.

“The majority of people are great at doing their own around the end of April,” Pearson added. “We initially send out around 200 letter and its down to 10 to 15 by the second round in June.”

After that the folks in the Pismo Beach Cal Fire office start to recognize the few names left.

At least, they recognize the properties from the street. Fire abatement isn’t about privacy invasion, anything a neighbor has issues out of public sight with is more of a civil matter.

“We’re not out to police how your neighborhood looks,” she said.

– By Camas Frank

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