The dormancy of the Riverside County Fire Code Committee has not prevented County Fire Chief John Hawkins from formulating a plan to improve fire abatement on the Hill.

During the Sept. 9 Mountain Area Safety Taskforce meeting, Hawkins announced that after reviewing County Ordinance 695 (requiring the abatement of hazardous vegetation) and the state’s Public Resource and Health and Safety codes, he finds sufficient authority exists to enforce abatement throughout the Hill.

The committee’s mission to draft a new ordinance is unnecessary, he added, therefore the committee has been abandoned.

“The authority exists for Cal Fire and [Idyllwild Fire Protection District] to inspect unoccupied parcels for compliance with abatement regulations,” he told the group. “Bill Weiser [Cal Fire division chief for the mountain battalions] did a windshield survey and believes the problem is more isolated than widespread.”

The fire agencies have the authority to issue correction notices to abate. If property owners fail to comply, public notices will be issued and then the agency can use a contractor to abate the property and place the cost on the property as a lien, Hawkins affirmed.

“We’ll do what’s best for the public,” he said, describing the decision.

Patrick Reitz, Idyllwild Fire chief, said the majority of his district has been inspected and “… is generally in good condition.” Where problems existed, it was typically a new property owner who was unfamiliar with the abatement requirements, he added.