SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) — June has arrived, and for homeowners across the Bay Area, fire inspection season has come with it. That is the case for property owners in unincorporated Sonoma County, where after months of notices and warnings, fire safety inspections are now officially underway.
It’s new rules, new paperwork, even a new iPad app for Kenwood Fire Chief Daren Bellach. This was, literally, inspection number one this year at a home off of Arnold Road. “There’s a few violations. just a few things we need to go over,” he explained at the end of his visit to the property.
The homeowner, Joan Finkle, very much remembers the fires of October 2017. “Even though it didn’t get us right here, got to my friends. 140 homes burned in Kenwood,” said Finkle. With the expectation of increased fire danger this year the county is paying for more inspections like this one.
As for this inspection, there were just a few things on the property to correct. “So one of them is, especially close to your chimney, is having tree branches extending over the house,” Chief Bellach explained, pointing towards the oak near the main building’s chimney.
Another violation to correct was a pile of wood along the backside of the house. Wood piles need to be 30 feet away from homes. For her part, Finkle welcomed the instructions. “But there have been times when neighbors don’t maintain their property, and it’s awkward,” she said. “Especially when they don’t live here full-time which is usually the problem.”
These inspections really are another reminder for property owners that they are responsible for fire safety, and the warm weather on this day was a reminder that California is on the doorstep of fire season. In Sonoma, like a lot of other Bay Area counties, there isn’t necessarily a fine for fire safety violations, but if the county has to keep coming back for more inspections, or abate a property, the property owner will be delivered the bills.
If the property owner does not pay those bills, the next step is a lien on the property.