Santa Rosa fire officials to declare June 5 start of fire season. Here’s what that means

Fire officials say despite cooler temperatures and late season rain, residents shouldn’t fall into a false sense of security and should prepare for peak fire season.|

Santa Rosa fire officials are asking residents to take steps to safeguard their homes and prepare for an emergency as the local fire season gets underway.

The Santa Rosa Fire Department will declare June 5 the start of the wildfire season, the department announced Thursday.

Though the declaration largely is meant to allow the city to enforce its weed abatement rules, it comes as Cal Fire begins to mobilize more staff in anticipation of peak fire season and as local fuels start to dry out following heavy rain earlier this year.

Santa Rosa Division Chief Fire Marshal Paul Lowenthal said though vegetation in low-lying areas is still relatively green, vegetation in the city’s hillsides and in areas with increased wildfire risks have started to turn brown and dry out.

“Based on what the conditions are like and what we’re seeing, the determination was made to start our weed abatement efforts next week,” Lowenthal said. “We’re ready for our community to start taking the steps to be better prepared for the summer and fall months.”

Property owners must cut weeds and seasonal grasses that are over 4 inches tall and ensure vegetation is maintained through the end of the fire season.

The weed abatement ordinance applies to properties within high-risk fire areas, known as the wildland urban interface, vacant lots citywide and developed properties with more than a half-acre of unimproved land. The city will begin conducting inspections following the start of the season and owners who don’t comply could be cited.

The city began trimming vegetation on city-owned properties in early May, Lowenthal said.

Lowenthal said winter rains have led to a growth in vegetation across the region that could pose a danger and because the ground has retained so much moisture there’s the potential for weeds and seasonal grass to grow again even after being cut.

“A lot of people are so used to cutting early in the season and being done with it, but this year we’re seeing the potential for having to cut twice, maybe three times,” he said. “Our concern right now is people keeping their properties in compliance and understanding that just because they cut it once doesn’t mean they’re done this year.”

Beyond clearing weeds, here are additional steps residents can take to harden their homes against wildfires:

  • Maintain at least 30 feet of defensible space around the home that is clear of tree limbs and other debris.
  • Low hanging branches and branches near rooflines should be trimmed back at least 10 feet from the home and the roof and gutters should be cleared of dry leaves and debris.
  • Rake and remove leaves from around the home and under decks and move wood piles and other combustible materials further away from the home.
  • When cutting weeds and seasonal grass, use proper equipment and remove rocks from the area before equipment is used. Residents should conduct work early in the morning, particularly if they’re using power equipment around or in areas of dry brush, and they should have a water supply, shovel or fire extinguisher handy in case a fire does start.

Residents should also review emergency plans and evacuation procedures and have a go-bag ready with clothes, medicine, essential documents and food and water.

A Wildfire Ready Resource Fair will be held 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 19 at Finley Community Center, 2060 W. College Ave., to help residents prepare for the season.

Experts and fire officials will be on hand to discuss best practices on emergency preparedness and provide other resources.

For more tips on how to prevent wildfires and prepare for emergencies, visit Santa Rosa’s Wildfire Ready website or Ready Santa Rosa.

You can reach Staff Writer Paulina Pineda at 707-521-5268 or On Twitter @paulinapineda22.

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