MOFD Begins Fire Inspections: Here’s What to do if You Get a Citation

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(Courtesy Moraga-Orinda Fire District)
This illustration shows the correct and incorrect way to trim brush around a property.

    The Moraga-Orinda Fire District (MOFD) has been out and about inspecting homes and issuing citations.
    If you get one, don’t worry. There is no fine and MOFD wants to work with you on this. If you get estimates for the work which are out of reach, MOFD is willing to work out a plan for getting it done.
    Here is the process for a fire code violation citation for people who just don’t want to do the work or who do not call MOFD to work out a plan.
    If a property owner receives an assessment, the homeowner has 30 days to remedy the violations, after which a MOFD inspector will check to see if the work is done. If the work has not been done, the homeowner will receive a Notice to Abate letter and will have another 15 days to do the work. A re-inspection will be performed after the 15 days.
    If the work has not been completed to fire-code standards, an abatement order will be sent by mail to the owner of record and be placed on the property.
    If the violation is still not remedied, a lien hearing will be scheduled and be held at a regular MOFD board meeting. If the work is started at any time before the hearing, the lien process will be stopped.
    If the property owner fails to comply with the fire code the following year, that property is marked as being a seasonal nuisance and in subsequent years, MOFD will simply perform the work and assess the costs to the owner in the form of a lien.
    If code violations are abated by MOFD and a lien is placed on the property, no interest is charged and the lien will not affect the owner’s credit. The lien does not have to be paid until the home sells.
    The new fire code will require a home to be in compliance before a sale is completed. So the excess fuel is going to have to be removed, one way or the other.
    Given that a home with unmitigated fuel is a wildfire hazard, potentially life-threatening to its neighbors and can affect the insurance premiums of neighbors, it makes sense to get the work done now.
    And what is the most important work to do now?
    Ideally, it is to remove pine and eucalyptus trees and clear out the brush and fire-ladder plants, leaving an oak savannah. It turns out that oak trees are not that combustible and there are fire science studies to show that an oak tree canopy doesn’t make a wildfire worse.
    Pine trees and eucalyptus trees contribute to a wildfire: pine trees have pitch which is basically like lighter fluid and eucalyptus tree oil forms a gas at high temperature which explodes, sending embers far beyond the site of the fire.
    After everything is cleared out, you will have a lot of bare dirt, perfect for a fire-resistant ground cover. FiresafeMarin has a list of 24 ground covers as well as a wonderful section about firescaping in general. To learn more, go to https://firesafemarin.org/plants/fire-smart/advanced-search/41.

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