Uncut grass a growing problem for city

EUGENE, Ore. -- Tall grass and brush within city limits can be an eye sore for community members, but Eugene's fire marshal said a lack of landscaping is actually a fire hazard.

"So when we have a few days of hot weather, this stuff gets dry quickly," said Deputy Fire Marshal Amy Linder at a vacant lot off Highway 99 in Eugene on Monday, "and if it is presented with an ignition source, it is going to burn and spread fairly quickly."

Linder said the Eugene and Springfield fire departments put out around 50 brush fires during the summer months each year.
"The top three things that we see are improperly discarded cigarettes, unattended warming fires or what we call an open flame source," said Linder.

Linder said the most effective solution to the problem is not to police irresponsible human behavior, but to cut the fuel source down to a manageable level.

"And it's really just keeping things cut down, keeping them short, keeping them watered, keeping things in nice condition so that we minimize the chances of a fire," said Linder. "And if there is a fire, it minimizes the spread and damage it can cause."

Enforcement of grass cutting is left to regulatory enforcement officer Fred Lockhart and his vegetation program.
"An extreme fire danger for this residence, and these are the folks that will call us," said Lockhart at the same vacant lot off Highway 99 as he pointed to a nearby home surrounded by three-foot tall grass.
Lockhart said the source of the problem, vacant lots and unattended homes, is growing.
"Last year there were quite a few. This year there were even more," said Lockhart, "so, a lot of vacant properties, a lot of foreclosed properties."
"The moral of the story is to keep your grass cut, especially big lots like this to prevent a fire hazard," added Lockhart.
Lockhart said any vacant lot two acres or less from June 15 until the end of summer must keep grass cut to 10-inches or less, or risk an abatement from the city.