Posted Sign is Reminder of City’s Failure to Maintain its Defensible Space

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Nextdoor.com, and was republished here with the author’s permission.

The City of Redding put up a sign earlier this week at the top end of Blazingwood on the west side. It says: “This parcel was cleared on Wildfire Preparedness Day, May 4 2018 by the Redding Fire Department, City of Redding Parks and community volunteers. Defensible space is essential to improve your home’s chance of surviving a wildfire.”

I believe that the vast majority of the residents of Country Heights are aware of what defensible space should look like. Most residents have been working on clearing their property at least to the required minimum defensible space. Many residents continue to clear their property as evident by the debris pile across the street from the sign. Many residents have also expanded their work to include their neighbors’ property and on green belts that are owned by the City and other property owners.

It’s been one year since the Carr Fire devastated our north state. Every morning I’m reminded of how close it came to our neighborhood, just by looking out my back door. An area of about 50 yards was cleared in May to the bottom of Blazingwood. Down the street for about a quarter mile, there’s vegetation and downed limbs from February’s snow storm on the City’s property. The City says the earliest they’ll get to it will be November.

Every time a helicopter or a small plane flies overhead, or I hear a siren, my heart races. I don’t need a sign in the neighborhood as a reminder of how the City is failing to maintain their property, or how it will effect our neighborhood when the next fire occurs. I’ll bet if the city schedules a work day in this area, soon, we could get lots of volunteers involved.

Meanwhile, I hope our neighbors will continue to work on their defensible space. I, for one, would like the sign removed.

Peter Alexander, Redding

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23 Responses

  1. As I drive around Redding, and even in my neighborhood, I see downed branches from our February snow storm, and all I see is kindling waiting for a spark.

    • Terry Turner Terry Turner says:

      Doni, I see the downed branches, and the dead hanging branches in the exact same way now. Kindling waiting for a spark is the exact definition. As the temperature climbs, and the dead branches bake in the heat…. Not a recipe for our safety, is it?

      And I, too, commend our city workers. What they did to clear the roads, etc. after the snow storm was herculean. I believe most were working double shifts. Thank you all!

      Now if the decision makers could allocate the time and resources to clear fuel loads on public land it would be very good.

  2. Avatar Randy says:

    I don’t see how local government can bear the complete responsibility for keeping the fuel loads to a “safe”level. Sounds like the people in this neighborhood are taking responsibility for their own safety into their own hands.

    • I don’t think it’s a matter of expecting government to bear the full responsibility for 100-percent defensible spaces within the city limits; but there are many city-owned parcels that are tinderboxes filled with dry brush and downed trees near subdivisions. That’s what scary. I think it adds insult to injury when the city has expectations and recommendations for citizens that the city doesn’t adhere to itself.

      And for what it’s worth, when I say “city” I’m talking about the decision-makers; not the city workers who end up doing the work.

      • Terry Turner Terry Turner says:

        Side note: For several years I lived in a housing tract in Redding that butted up to a valley. Local residents went out every year and mowed the weeds on the hillside that led up to our housing tract. It was all working great until someone ‘official’ noticed and shut them down since it was City of Redding land.

        Now the weeds are over three feet high, thick and dry. They haven’t been mowed since the city stopped the residents from doing it. It’s now not just an eyesore, but kindling waiting for a match.

        • Avatar Rob Belgeri says:

          I’m fortunate in that the neighborhood where I live has no City parcels that abut us, unless one counts the green belt running along Churn Creek. It looks pretty green and/or appropriately clear back there. That said, if the City weren’t doing something about a parcel that affected us, I’d be in front of City Council at public comment as often as it took to shame them into doing something–presentations that would include mention of the hypocrisy of defensible-space postings when they can’t keep their (our) house in order.

          • Terry Turner Terry Turner says:

            Excellent idea, Rob! I’ll have to talk to some of my former neighbors and encourage them to do so.

      • Avatar Randy says:

        I agree.

  3. Avatar Candace C says:

    Sad to say that because of Canyon Creek and Blazingwood’s numerous downed trees, etc. I have an escape route planned out that doesn’t involve those two streets if the thinkable happens. The sign isn’t offensive to me, it just seems sort of silly given the condition of everything around it.Then again I suppose if it spurs someone to create defensible space (which I see residents doing in their own in Country Heights) around either theirs or their neighbor’s property it’s a good thing. I worry every single day when I drive those two streets to my home. I had no idea it’s not slated to be cleared until November. Scary.

  4. Frank Treadway Frank Treadway says:

    A petition was recently turned in to City of Redding officials with copies to each council member, Fire Chief, City Manager and others. The petition was signed by 112 city property owners, not exactly a representative number of the nearly 100,000 residents. However, the petition stated and requested that the City of Redding immediately mitigate the dry grasses, dead trees and other flammable materials within the City owned canyons and swales that run up to private property owners. That the City would be liable for any fire that occurred within their property and reached into private property structures. Several ideas were included in the cover letter: Collaborate with local, state and federal agencies, bring in goat herds, develop and install a city-wide alarm system like Butte Co just installed, use Sugar Pine/jail inmates. The request was that this take place immediately, and on an ongoing basis. State and Federal funding exist and both entities can take advantage of such. Petitions with signatures seem to help make action take place. The group receiving the petitions and signatures see real people being very serious about the protection of their properties.

  5. Avatar Candace C says:

    Frank, do you know which neighborhood was represented by that petition? Or maybe it was brought by folks living in multiple neighborhoods?

  6. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    When I worked at SUHSD we had inmate crews come in and clean up debris at both Enterprise and Shasta High Schools. They would also clean up other debris area. That was a dozen years ago.
    The Phoenix Good News Rescue Mission, run by the same people that run Redding Good News Rescue Mission, work with the city of Glendale to hire the homeless to clean up public areas.

  7. Avatar Ann Webber says:

    I live in Lakehead and Calfire monitors our properties and is very helpful in distribution of information about requirements. I’m not able to do all that is needed by myself, but I do have help and I am pretty close to being defendable. One big concern is that adjacent properties are not required to keep up with clearance if they have not been built upon. The lot next to mine is a tinderbox.

    That said, I used to own a number of properties in Clearlake and the City of Clearlake does an annual assessment of properties. They notify owners by mail if clearing is necessary. If you don’t take care of it, they will do it for you, with a penalty and an assessment is levied on the property. This seems to be an effective process. It could be a way to help provide extra funding for the city to take care of their own property as well.

    • Avatar Anita Brady says:

      That is exactly our issue in the NE of Redding. The large property north of us is undeveloped and there has been no clearing– EVER. We keep our property line and utility easement clear, but a wind-propelled fire would wipe out our neighborhood.

      The county must pass the appropriate ordinances to get undeveloped properties defendable on any property line with developed properties.

      Shasta County Supervisors are hell-bent on restricting legal outdoor pot grows but don’t choose to deal with this life and death issue. Priorities are totally misplaced.

  8. Avatar Ken Speed says:

    When I spoke with someone from the parks department about their plans to mitigate the fuel situation between Quartz hill and Panorama, he was long on ideas and short on actual plans. The other large property holder in this fuel belt is McConnell. This area hasn’t been cleared in 18 years and it’s an absolute disaster waiting for a spark. After the Carr Fire there were two incidents in this area, one behind Masonic and the other near Keswick Dam Rd. We bugged out for both of those. We get nervous every time we hear low-flying aircraft in our area.

    It is beyond frustrating that the city ignores the mitigation plan from 2014 and which has now become the basis for a suit from Carr Fire survivors whose home were lost. The lawsuit, while greatly merited, is a double-edged sword. Now that the CoR is on notice with the lawsuit, will become even more difficult to get them to acknowledge responsibility.

  9. Avatar Dan says:

    This has been going on for at least 20 years. Our old Sunset Terrace home (that was singed by CARR flames) originally backed to overgrown city property that hosted transient camps and summer campfires above the river trail. After numerous unsuccessful phone calls and letters to City management, we gave up and hired a landscape contractor to cut back City of Redding’s dry brush, blackberries and thickets 30′ from our back fence at a cost of $3,000. The city threatened to arrest me for trespassing, etc and had RPD pay me a visit. I then had to hire an Attorney to threaten to sue them. Suddenly the dynamic changed, and they became pleasant and sent over mulching dozer.

    At some point in Redding history, City management decided to become involved in land speculation and unlike us mere mortals they feel they are not held to the same laws and rules of civilized behavior to maintain their property. Somehow they believe “premise liability” and “duty of care” or just the “golden rule”, does not apply to them.

    Based on past dealings with some C.O.R City managers, I think that unless affected homeowners band together and get adequate legal help, petitions, City Council appearances, and demonstrations will have little effect. Throughout the USA neighborhoods have banded together and after sending demand letters, have sued negligent property owners in small claims court, each homeowner suing for the maximum allowable (10k) in California. Redding already has at least 400 claims for negligence from CARR, how many more lawsuits and victims will it take to get action?

  10. Avatar Linda Cooper says:

    Trust me, I’m on everyone’s side here. Yet the thought occurred to me. I wonder if the city fears being liable for people clearing city property if someone was injured. I recall getting a phone call at the State Park office in Shasta. A woman called and said she got a splinter from a stair railing. She explained her daughter told her that even though she was okay, she should sue. And asked how she would go about that effort. Sigh.

    Additionally, I had read an article once that stated some insurance companies will pay for clearing brush and trees if they are considered a hazard. Because it can save the insurance company in the long run. Uh, not true when I checked with our insurance.

    Ironically, we had just finished spending $4,000 for clearing some pines around our property six month before the fire event. Who knows? Maybe this helped saved some other homes. I remember the nice tree service man calling me later and offering to help in any way he could. I knew he meant “free.” People can be so kind!

  11. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    Defensible means that someone will be there to defend the property. When I drove to my home everyday in Shasta I passed the signs near the CDF hall near Iron Mountain Road showing the difference between defensible and not defensible property. Our property was clean, the neighbor was weed whacking the day of the fire, and BLM’s land to the west of us was a thicket of knob cone and Grey pine with a mix of manzanita. We had actually started clearing into BLM land. Everyone should assess their risk and assume there might not be resources to defend their property. Our home is gone.

  12. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    Defensible means that someone will be there to defend the property. When I drove to my home everyday in Shasta I passed the signs near the CDF hall near Iron Mountain Road showing the difference between defensible and not defensible property. Our property was clean, the neighbor was weed whacking the day of the fire, and BLM’s land to the west of us was a thicket of knob cone and Grey pine with a mix of manzanita. We had actually started clearing into BLM land. Everyone should assess their risk and assume there might not be resources to defend their property. Defensible implies there will be resources to defind a property.

  13. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    I didn’t mean to repeat myself!

  14. Avatar Scott says:

    It a shame the COR Code Enforcment used all that money & manpower citing and harassing local small businesses about their retail sinage.They should have used that effort to get all the private owned overgrown,neglected and empty vacant lots throughout Redding, to clean-up and clear their accidents waiting to happen! Of course that would mean they would also be exposed for their neglect of city owned lots as well!

  15. Avatar Liv says:

    Would love to see the city do something with the tinderbox waiting to happen 4 houses away. And across on Canyon , bring in the chippers do something quit waiting for the next shoe to fall or burn !