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What Is Weed Abatement?

Weed abatement consists of removing plants or grasses that pose a fire hazard to occupied or vacant structures and transportation routes.
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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 31 August 2014
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Weed abatement consists of removing plants or grasses that pose a fire hazard to occupied or vacant structures and transportation routes. It creates space around buildings and reduces the risk of loss to property and life from fire. In some areas, noxious weed abatement programs exist to rid land of plants that threaten natural foliage.

Areas where wildland fires rage out of control typically enforce strict weed abatement programs. These programs require defensible space around buildings that interface with forests and other areas containing dense vegetation. Laws in these areas commonly require property owners to clear brush and debris within a minimum distance of structures. The owners might also need to create fire breaks vertically and horizontally to control the spread of fire.

The combination of heat, wind, and fuel in the form of dead vegetation leads to the destruction of homes and the loss of lives in areas where wildland fires burn out of control, often for days. After firefighters extinguish the blaze, rains might cause mudslides in hilly areas because vegetation usually holds soil in place. Mudslides also might lead to property loss and huge financial impacts to communities.

Abatement officials usually send notices to property owners when a hazard exists. The notifications typically give a set number of days to comply with the removal of weeds or other flammable debris. After the timeline expires, inspectors usually check the land to see if weed abatement is satisfactory.

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If the property still represents a fire hazard, a notice of violation commonly goes out, warning the property owner that abatement will be done by a licensed contractor or public works department. The owner is commonly charged for the work. In some areas, a lien can be placed on the property to recover costs of weed abatement.

An appeal process typically permits the land owner to dispute findings of the inspector. Appeals might argue vegetation on the land consists of fire-resistant plants exempt from weed abatement regulations. This procedure might also apply if endangered species or rare plants grow on the property slated for abatement. An appeal generally extends the time for abatement until an investigation can be done.

Some weed laws require the trimming of ornamental plants to remove any dead leaves or branches. They also might require tree branches be trimmed away from structures, and that grasses be cut to within a predetermined length. Clearing pine needles and other debris from gutters and roofs might also fall under weed abatement laws.

Noxious weed abatement programs exist in areas where non-native plants pose the risk of invading and choking out more desirable native plant species. These programs attempt to suppress and control the spread of noxious weeds on public and private land. They commonly use biological and chemical methods to abate the problem.

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