Ashland Fire & Rescue officials are warning residents to cut tall weeds and grass down to 4 inches or less by Saturday, June 15, or face possible citations.
If fires do break out, firefighters can stop them more easily in short grass and weeds than in tall vegetation, said Fire & Life Safety Division Chief Margueritte Hickman.
"Short, dry grass is still flammable, but a fire won't move as fast. The intensity of the fire is so much less that it's much easier to control," Hickman said.
People who own or rent property of less than an acre in Ashland must cut grass and weeds to 4 inches or less by Saturday, and then maintain the vegetation at 4 inches or less throughout the fire season, fire officials said.
The rule also applies to park rows — strips of grass or landscaping between streets and sidewalks — and other land bordering streets and sidewalks.
Fire season in Jackson County started on June 3 and fire officials are predicting a hot, dry fire season.
For property that is more than 1 acre, 15-foot buffer zones must be kept mowed around the property's borders and driveway, and 30-foot buffer zones must be kept around homes, fire officials said.
Ashland Fire & Rescue personnel go street-by-street inspecting for overgrown weeds and grass in the interface zone, where homes begin to blend into the forested hills above Ashland.
The fire department accepts written complaints and will inspect overgrown properties anywhere in Ashland, Hickman said.
During the 2012 fire season, personnel completed 840 weed abatement inspections, fire officials said.
The city issued 184 notices to abate vegetation. Mailing those notices cost $1,000 and each property had to be inspected at least twice, according to Ashland Fire & Rescue.
Citations were issued to owners or tenants of two properties who failed to abate weeds and grass, fire officials said.
A citation can cost up to $500, Hickman said. She said the city prefers homeowners and renters to be pro-active and cut weeds and grass.
"That creates the safest scenario for the city and is least expensive," Hickman said.
In 2010, a fast-moving fire started by a mentally ill man swept through overgrown weeds and grass in southeast Ashland, jumped Interstate 5 and destroyed 11 houses on Oak Knoll Drive.
For more information on weed abatement or to file a written complaint about tall vegetation after June 15, visit www.ashland.or.us/weedabatement.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.