State promises crackdown on fire prevention scofflaws

     State promises crackdown on fire prevention scofflaws

9 May 2008

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CA, USA — Rural homeowners who do not mow and trim to create a fire-resistant 100-foot “defensible space” around their homes are more likely to be prosecuted by the state this year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says.

“We know from the past fires … that prevention is half of the battle,” the governor told a news conference Friday.

The governor says he was not even aware of his own problems at his home in Santa Monica until a fire department official visited and said, ‘“This is terrible. This is a fire hazard all around your house. Get rid of this tall grass. Get rid of these shrubs,’” Mr. Schwarzenegger related.

The governor says he followed the advice.

For homeowners who don’t, fines could be the result.

“The governor has given clear direction … to not only increase our education but increase our enforcement this year,” says Kate Darden, state fire marshal.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has also been ordered to develop and implement “aggressive interdiction plans” for the enforcement of laws regarding arson and illegal and dangerous fireworks.

Investigators will focus on “high traffic, high impact, high volume distribution and transportation points which may be the sources for the ignition of wildland fires in California.”

The governor on Friday issued an executive order that he says will boost the state’s wildfire preparedness immediately.

Additional firefighters are being mobilized along with ground equipment and aircraft.

“This year’s fire season has already begun,” says Mr. Schwarzenegger. “We need every firefighting resource and tool on ready alert, so we can spring to action when disaster strikes.”

Last year’s wildfires resulted in the largest deployment of firefighting resources and the highest number of evacuations in state history.

It’s as bad or worse this year than a year ago. The governor, in his executive order, warns of “imminent threat of catastrophic fires.”

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