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Weed Abatement Efforts Shaping Up
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There is likely more rain to come this spring, but local residents are being asked to start addressing problems with weeds and overgrown property now, ahead of the coming fire season.

Hot weather isn't very far away, noted both Escalon Fire Department Battalion Chief Terry Pinheiro and Escalon Code Enforcement Officer Katie Kirkbride, and the more that residents do now, the less trouble there will be later.

"I'm getting started on it," Pinheiro said of making routine checks of properties in the Escalon Consolidated Fire Protection District. "We've got a lot of the same problem properties every year."

Pinheiro said it isn't time yet for a full mow down, since more rain ahead would probably just exacerbate the growth, but residents should be checking their property for any overgrown areas and start to cut them back.

It's a balancing act, admitted Pinheiro, of not cutting too early so it grows back with a vengeance but not waiting until it is too dry that mowing itself becomes a fire hazard.

"All the city parcels have been turned in," he added, noting that the department looks at property within the district both in and outside of the city limits.

Properties in the county area that are still within the fire protection district are also being completed.

"There's quite a delay in the county system in me sending it in and between the first and final notice," Pinheiro said.

The goal of the weed abatement program is not to be punitive, he explained, but to get problem areas under control so they don't pose a fire hazard in the community or surrounding area.

One problem this year, Pinheiro added, is an increase in abandoned properties because of the economy. Those could potentially become problematic.

Interim City Manager Henry Hesling agreed with Pinheiro that people need to be aware of the situation.

"The main thing is compliance," he said of keeping weeds and overgrowth at bay. "We have ordinances and regulations and when people don't comply, that's when we have to take it to the next step."

There is an educational component, however, and Hesling said city Code Enforcement Officer Katie Kirkbride is getting the word out to residents about the need for complying with the weed abatement program.

"It's a proactive thing," said Kirkbride. "In the residential areas, if we see lots with tall weeds, we send out a letter letting them know."

Some owners may not live within the city, but Kirkbride said the responsibility still falls on the homeowner to take care of the property.

"With all the rain we've had, stuff did kind of creep up," she said of having to send out notices already. "Some people have actually gotten ahead and mowed already ... they just need to make sure they maintain it."

Those that don't comply face citations and, in some cases, having the property cleaned and then receiving a bill for it. Kirkbride said both those occurrences can be avoided.

"It just takes common sense," she said.

For more information, contact Pinheiro at 838-7500 or Kirkbride at 691-7303.