Yesterday, I complained about a bonfire on the parcel next to me. I went to the Murphys Fire Department, Cal Fire, talked with the Prevention Officer, Breton Brown on the phone. I learned that a fire permit is given for two years. When winter sets in, anyone can burn without a permit. During the iffy season, dates set by the state, you must have a permit. The permit must be with you when you burn and you are restricted to a four by four-foot burn pile. You can have multiple piles, but not anything bigger. The above fire was over 25 feet wide, and definitely against the law. The fire constituted a misdemeanor crime.
Now, let us discuss country mentality. Cal Fire responded to the fire, it was a criminal act, but no one was cited or fined. Why?
Because the Prevention Officer is the only one allowed to issue a citation. He is the Prevention Officer for three counties and he has to be called and witness the fire himself to issue a citation. Small county budgets must share one officer.
My questions to the agencies and Brown. Who set the fire, the owner or the construction company working on the property? Who has the permit? Was there a permit?
Nobody seems to have a clear record of who has a permit, and if they knew, they couldn’t give me the name because I might retaliate and go shoot that person.
You can publish the names of child molesters, their address, records of arrests made in the county, the suspected perpetrators of a crime, but you cannot have a list of people in the county with fire permits. Whaaa?
Well, it seems that a fire permit for Calaveras County can be obtained in San Diego? So, who knows who has them? According to Murphys Fire Department, they don’t know.
Are fires monitored?
Well, yes, after the event. Then they are given a warning, if they are in violation, unless the prevention officer happens to be on the scene. and can issue a citation. So, the answer is, no. Neighbors must monitor by calling in.
Do they have to notify the local department when they intend to burn? Are there any restrictions on a burn permit for an occasion with 30 and 40 mile per hour winds having been announced on television, radio and on-line for the evening?
No. They expect people to use common sense.
Why can’t other responders with Cal Fire issue a citation?
Because they have to go to a 6 month class to do so and they are unmotivated to do that.
Seems to me an over sized fire doesn’t take that much education to judge, but, hey, you have to be able to distinguish between a crime, intentionally set, etc. etc. and etc.
Why can’t each station have one person able to make a simple fire-permit violation citation? I mean, how hard is that?
Well, the county board of supervisors cannot do that because all fire law is set at the State Senate level. And the fire laws have gone unchanged since the 1920′s and can’t properly address today’s issues of heavy equipment in our forests, etc. etc.
Does the person burning have to have a source of water to burn on a five acre parcel?
No! Unless they are agricultural. (There is no water on the parcel where the bonfire was set. They have vineyard fencing, over six foot high wire with barbwire on top. But, no grapes are planted, yet.)
Do people with burn permits have to qualify with at least some knowledge of the proper way to burn?
There are instructions with the permit
Fire laws have been on the books unchanged since the 1920′s, according to Brown. For instance, the loggers have to have a fire tool box to lumber, but what is contained in it is absolutely inadequate to stop even a small fire in the middle of the woods.
If the parcel is over five acres, air pollution control issues the permit. Another layer of disorganization. Surely other communities are affected by this?
When I looked at the assessors map to find the owners name, it was blocked by the owner. I didn’t know that could be done. Isn’t that a public record?
This property has a nuisance owner who has kids who come up on weekends with ATV’s, and do wheelies in the dust scraped up by the heavy equipment on the property. A construction contractor has to have a water wagon to keep the dust down. I have dust drifting onto my deck, I have to close the windows when the dust cloud blows my way. My clothing hanging on the line, one time, had to be rewashed. From my car, I could not distinguish my friend’s driveway just two lots away one morning. My renters are threatening to move, because the peaceful Big Valley is no longer peaceful. These people use the property as a firing range and shoot at night with loud, loud guns. You can be sure, I will find out who the owner is and make it known that we would like some consideration on their part.