There was a palpable mind shift last week in Ashland's residents when we experienced our first day of 90-plus degree weather this year. Summer is coming! Which means fire season is coming. We’ve had a record year of rain and snow that has pulled much of Oregon out of drought. It is a welcomed change, but that extra moisture helps everything grow taller and more abundant, including the grass and weeds.

We have learned through experience, study and sometimes travesty that regardless of the season, there are certain, proven measures that we all can take around our property and our community that greatly reduce the risk of fire and its spread. The city of Ashland created enforceable laws for weed abatement to promote and establish these proven measures of fire safety for the protection of our beautiful community and our forest environment.

Ashland Municipal Code (Section 9.04) requires landowners to cut grasses and weeds by June 15 each year and to keep them cut through the fire season. This applies to all lots within the city limits. The city invests in this process by hiring a weed abatement coordinator each year to oversee the program and patrol the city.

Fire behaves noticeably different in short grass compared to tall uncut grass. Generally, fire burning in short grass will slowly smolder, making it easier to put out. In tall uncut grass, fire moves fast as heat generated from more fuel feeds the spread. The more fuel, the more fire. Flames can be as tall as the grass itself, making it much harder to control the fire. Keeping your grass short helps reduce the fire risk to your home and your community.

The city has set up a system for lodging a complaint if you see a yard or lot with tall grass or weeds. Complaints are only accepted in writing beginning June 16 using an online form found at ashland.or.us/weedabatement.

While preparing your yard for fire season, we recommend taking additional steps removing all flammable materials within five feet of your home. This includes removing bark mulch in this area and creating a fuel free zone using rockscape or bare soil. Flying embers from a wildfire can get trapped next to your house and put your home at risk. Keeping this area, and roof gutters, free of anything flammable could mean all the difference.

Also, please familiarize yourself with our three-stage evacuation process: Be Ready, Be Set, Go! It is important to always “Be Ready” for an evacuation. Create a 72-hour kit and have a plan for your pets or animals during an evacuation. Make sure to program 1700-AM on your car radio for quick access to information. Have you signed up for Citizen Alert, our emergency notification system? Alerts can be sent to your email and cell phone so you can receive vital information such as evacuation notices, even if you are not home. Head over to ashland.or.us/alert to "Opt In."

Fire is everyone’s fight. Help us all have a safe fire season!

— Alison Lerch is the Fire Adapted Communities Coordinator for Ashland Fire & Rescue. You can reach her at alison.lerch@ashland.or.us. The Alarm Box, a column with local public safety information, appears triweekly in the Tidings.