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Team 10: A closer look at San Diego brush clearance citations

This week is Wildfire Awareness Week
Posted: 1:09 PM, May 09, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-09 21:32:27-04
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Santa Ana winds to increase fire danger over the next week in San Diego County
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(KGTV) -- Charles Butler visits homes in San Diego, but he is not trying to sell anything.

Butler is a code compliance officer for San Diego Fire-Rescue and makes sure brush surrounding homes is not out of control.

“It’s the hillside we’re really concerned about, the canyon rim location,” Butler said.

It is Wildfire Awareness Week in California. Assistant Fire Marshal Eddie Villavicencio said approximately 40,500 homes in San Diego are canyon rim properties, next to native or naturalized vegetation. Legally, Villavicencio said those homeowners must have defensible space of 100 feet.

Click here for a map of "very high fire hazard severity zones" in San Diego.

RELATED: It's wildfire season! Here's how to prepare for the worst

Over the last year from March 31, 2018 to April 30, 2019:

  • 9,016 total number of brush and risk assessment inspections were conducted
  • 6,854 home were found to be in compliance on the first/initial inspection (approximately 76 percent)
  • 2,162 homes required 1 to 2 re-inspections before voluntarily compliance was achieved
  • Only 1 home required forced abatement proceedings

A CalFire spokesperson said 70 citations were issued throughout the state in 2018. Records from San Diego County show at least two properties had to do a third inspection last year. This year, no citations have been issued so far locally.

“We get more homes in compliance than we do in violation,” Butler said of homes in San Diego.

“Educating is the number one priority for us,” Villavicencio added.

RELATED: Resource List: Are you prepared for a San Diego wildfire?

If San Diego homeowners are found not to be in compliance, they receive a notice of violation. If they don’t comply, they can face a second violation. By the third time, the property owner could be fined $300 and ultimately, forced abatement meaning the City will clean up your home. Villavicencio said a special assessment lien could be placed on your property.

Fortunately, it usually does not have to go that far.

“People are more proactive and more willing to create that proper defensible space,” Villavicencio said.

However, there are challenges including a lack of staffing. Villavicencio said they do not visit as many homes as they would like to per year. That is all the more reason to do your part.

“That’s the intent of the defensible space. It’s keeping small fires small, it’s giving fire operations time to respond to the fire and the space to fight the fire,” Villavicencio said.