Residents worried grass may ignite fires

July 9, 2008 11:47:34 PM PDT
With these hot dry conditions, it doesn't take much to ignite a fire. Sparks from a car can do it, and many people are beginning to pay more attention to overgrown grasses on public property.

If you drive through the parks, and on city and county roads you'll see some areas that are cut and some that still look like this.

The herd of 600 goats on this U.C. Berkeley hill can't eat fast enough.

"A lot of new people are calling they're kind of in a panic. Our company is booked pretty solid," said Terry Oyarzun from Goats R Us.

Oyarzun of Goats R Us, says her mixed herd can devour about two acres of brush a day.

It costs $800 an acre, and municipalities and property owners with steep landscapes are more than willing to pay.

"Our rotational contracts are expecting us at a certain time year after year and they'd like us earlier this year because of the early dry season," said Oyarzun.

"Seems like very little embankment cutting has been done this year," said Berkeley resident Stephen Grettenberg.

Residents from the East Bay Hills to the Diablo Mountain Range are noticing tall uncut grass along public easements.

"There's a lot of brush that's very close to the edge of the road so it could spark up," said Grettenberg

"I understand people are concerned, but this is really ahead of the season usually," said Capt. Brad Gallup from East Bay Regional Fire Department.

The East Bay Regional Parks District says it's been on the same schedule year after year.

The district says it and many other cities have a contract process that traditionally schedules weed cutting through July.

"And they're on schedule everywhere all at the same time. There's a limited amount of resources," said Gallup.

"When people are seeing it now they take it as an issue and once things cool down, I don't think its going to be a point of interest," said landscape contractor John Fouhy.

So, while contractors and government agencies rush to get the job done, they point out that nothing on their part has changed.

The only thing that has changed, they say, is the public's sense of urgency.

A lot of uncut grass may also be on private property, and the owners are responsible for that. But public institutions like the East Bay Regional Parks and U.C. Berkeley told ABC7 News they're on their regular schedule.


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