Defensible space inspections underway in San Marcos

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SAN MARCOS, Calif. – San Marcos firefighters are taking a different approach to educating residents about wildfire protection. Crews will be headed out in the next few weeks to conduct defensible space inspections.

“In addition to our yearly abatement programs, we’re also doing defensible space inspections in high and extreme fire danger zones,” said Bob Scott, division chief and fire marshall.

He said an estimated 1,500 homes are identified in such areas. Fire inspection teams will be going door to door to look at a number of factors including visibility of address numbers, water supply and defensible space.

“You need to have the first 50 feet around your home clear of any debris, brush and dead of dying matter,” said Scott. “Then from 50 to 100 feet past that zone, there has to be at least a 50 percent reduction.”

Tree branches must be at least 10 feet away from the home and woodpiles kept away from structures.

Scott said in some cases, 100 feet of defensible space works, but in San Marcos firefighters are pushing for 150 feet.

“The reason for that is because we have identified during fires such as the recent Cocos fires in 2014, 150 feet of defensible space will save a home,” said Scott.

Scott said even if residents weren’t home, firefighters would conduct inspections by sight from the street. If any problems are identified, the homeowner will be notified by mail.

He said occasionally some residents need some extra education.

“We do have people that have their idea of what defensible space is and we have our idea of what defensible space is,” said Scott.

Scott said it’s more important than ever to get the concept right this year.

“People shouldn’t be fooled by 'we had plenty of rain.' We’re still in a severe drought,” said Scott.

“I spend a lot of time cleaning up,” said Reno Bartolo.

Bartolo moved into his home on Phoenix Way shortly after the Cocos fire raged through the hillside surrounding his neighborhood. It’s the images from the massive May 2014 wildfires that keep him vigilant.

“I’ve already yanked out two to three fruit trees that have died,” said Bartolo. “Trees will die during this drought.”

He applauded the inspections being conducted by San Marcos Fire Department and said if inspectors show up at his home, he’s ready.

“I’d pass,” said Bartolo. “I know the criteria. I’m almost positive I’d pass.”

Scott said most residents comply, but for those that do not, by law, firefighters can conduct a forced abatement.

“That’s when we hire a contractor and they come in and clear everything,” said Scott. “However, it’s rare we do this. We want to give them every opportunity to comply by education."