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Tall grass, weeds concern firefighters

Recent moisture created more vegetation, potential fire fuel

Green Spring, Summer Could Raise Fire Danger Later

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Many vacant lots in Colorado Springs are more overgrown than usual because of recent rain -- a situation that could result in more fuel for fires.

In sustained dry weather many of those plants will turn brown, die or become dormant. They could be easily ignited by a lighted cigarette thrown from a vehicle, or other heat source.

The situation makes people who live near overgrown lots worried about fires spreading to surrounding areas.

City codes, however, require a lot owner to mow not an entire lot but only buffer zones along streets and bordering adjacent properties.

Code enforcement officers like Loren Zimmerman regularly look for lots in violation. Owners can be fined as much as $100.

"We've been getting a lot of calls," he said. 

Amy Sylvester, of the Colorado Springs Fire Department, said lot fires are rare but possible under certain conditions, even when vegetation is moist and green.

"The unfortunate thing about that is those are the fuels that dry out the quickest when we have some warm, dry, windy days," she said.

Sylvester said homeowners also can be fined if their grass grows too high.

"We recommend lawns no taller that 4 inches," she said.

"We usually don't have to get involved with (enforcing) that," Zimmerman said.    "Neighbors do a good job of influencing other neighbors there."

Sylvester said residents shouldn't think that no fire danger exists because of recent moisture.

"We are running on brush fire calls almost every day," she said.  "So those are happening but we're putting them out quickly.  We just want people to be aware."

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