DANVILLE (KPIX 5) — After massive wildfires ravaged Northern California the last two years, fire departments are stressing the need to clear vegetation. But some homeowners in the East Bay found one department’s approach to be insulting.

Sunday was actually a bit early for Pete Ferraro to be clearing a property of brush in an area above Danville known as Diablo in the San Ramon Valley Fire District. But the owner of AAA Tractor Service says he’s been getting some pretty panicky calls lately.

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“They always get notices of some sort, but it must be written a little more aggressively this year,” Ferraro said, “because all of my good, regular customers are quite concerned that they might get fined.”

The letter he’s referring to was sent to homeowners with more than 1 acre and near-open spaces reminding them of their responsibility to remove vegetation. But the following pages are a legal notice threatening fines, fees and work costs amounting to nearly $5,000 for missing the deadline.

“We’ve never been non-compliant…since 1981!” said Diablo homeowner Boyd Burnison. “And it just seems to me it’s kind of a heavy-handed approach to things.”

Burnison said the watershed area behind his house was still too soggy for a tractor to get in there. He said he understands the heightened concern after the wildfires in Paradise and Wine Country, but the district should show more tact.

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“Why do you have to lay 6 pages of paper on them, threatening to do all this stuff if they don’t do what they’ve been doing for the last 30 years?!” he said.


Still, Ferraro was out on Sunday clearing Burnison’s hillside, even though the ground was so wet his tractor was close to getting stuck. He said because of the late rains in May, some of his customers who cleared their land early will probably have to pay to do it again.

“On a wet year like this, I’d like to see the fire department just extend the whole date to June 15, June 20th,” he said. “Maybe even a little later if we get another shot of rain.”

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But in this case, fire officials did listen to the people. Later that afternoon, a spokesperson called to say that the district was extending the deadline to June 14th. He said he wasn’t sure when that decision was made, but that the district’s website, which still listed the old deadline, would be updated the following day.