Abandoned vacant lot owners could get bill from Fire Department, in addition to code enforcement

CBS47 Investigates

Fresno city staff say there are about 5,000 vacant lots and abandon homes in the city. Fresno Fire Department says several hundred have weeds growing out of control.

We know the owners of these properties can face fines from code enforcement officers. But now, the Fresno Fire Department can hand down even stiffer penalties.

It was just a few days a vacant field near Elm and Church avenues in Fresno went up in flames. Fresno Fire says the blaze could have destroyed an apartment complex, had fire crews not stopped it.

Fresno Fire Investigator Jay Tracy says, “The stance that we’ve taken, especially if the owners were told that they need to abate the field and has not, and we have a fire we are now going to hold that owner responsible for the cost incurred for fighting that fire.”

Tracy says owners could be charged minute by minute for the trucks, battalion chief, fire fighters and other equipment used to put out the flames.

If a fire fighter gets hurt or worse, if he or she dies while fighting the flames, the bill could be massive.

Shawnisha Calderon lives in the Geneva Village Apartments and had to evacuate due to a grass fire near Church and Elm.

She says, “I really believe they should pay for the fire department to come out. It takes a lot to move the equipment, man power all those things. Especially if they don’t keep up the area.”

With the help of the FresnoGo app, Tracy says Fresno Fire along with the police department and code enforcement have identified the worst vacant lots in the city.

Tracy says the fire department’s bill will be in addition to code enforcement fines, which range from $250 to $1,000.

The amount could grow more, if the city decides to hire someone to mow the lot and then give the lot owner the bill. 

CBS47 tried to get a comment from the lot of owners on the Fresno Fire Department list, but was unsuccessful.

Bottom line, fire fighters say these type of fires take away resources from other areas of the city.

The best advice, keep all fields mowed year around.

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