California Wildfire Citations Applied Unevenly

By DON THOMPSON | July 21, 2014

A review by The Associated Press of state government data has found a wide discrepancy in how state and local fire officials apply fines and citations for failing to clear vegetation in areas prone to wildland blazes.

Property owners in southern and central California were cited 5,076 times during the past three fiscal years for not doing enough to clear their properties and protect their homes from wildfires. During the same period, just eight such citations were issued in all of Northern California, and all of those came in a single year.

The geographic discrepancy in citations and compliance with brush-clearing is potentially important as the drought-stricken state enters the heart of its wildfire season. Lower compliance with the state’s defensible-space mandate could mean more homes lost when wildfire breaks out.

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