How long do you think the city will hold Upper Park hostage for a revenue measure?

31 Jul

The horrific Carr Fire up the road in Redding has me wondering – what would have happened if the wind had been blowing in the opposite direction two weeks ago when Upper Bidwell Park caught on fire. The winds drove that fire up the hill, threatening a subdivision and other residences along Hwy 32. What if the wind had shifted toward Chico, the densely populated neighborhoods of Canyon Oaks and Cal Park would have been right in the path of the fire.

As overgrown as the park is these days, hip high dead grass standing in fallen branches and under deteriorating trees, a fire could charge right into the heart of old, overgrown neighborhoods and make it’s way from treetop to rooftop all the way across Chico.

You don’t see that happening? Neither did I until I saw the pictures from Santa Rosa,  and now Redding. In 1991 it was the Oakland Hills.

I wondered what the law is regarding fire clearance, not just around homes, but along public roads and waterways. I found Cal Fire makes very good and clear ” recommendations “, but that’s all they are. The state relinquished responsibility for wildfire prevention to local jurisdictions – like Butte County and city of Chico – not only to make the laws but to enforce them.

So it’s no wonder Bidwell Park and other city properties are, by definition, Fire Hazard Severity Zones, “based on factors such as fuel, slope and fire weather…” Last year, the city of Chico, in direct contradiction of recommendations that are actually THE LAW in places like Tehama County, hired a contractor after July 1 to mow city property at the corner of Bruce Road that was in violation of the city’s own weed abatement ordinance. The city always has numerous properties listed on their own annual “Weed Abatement and Compliance”, along with Chico Unified and Enloe Hospital. Every year they threaten themselves with fines – well, us, actually – and then wait until the last possible moment to get them mowed.

My husband and I happened to be driving by at about 3 o’clock on a hot July afternoon, when we saw a crew unloading a big mower machine on to the city lot.We were shocked – in Tehama County you’re not allowed to mow after 11 am because of the ease of starting a fire in dry grass.

So we weren’t surprised when the news announced Chico Fire Dept had been dispatched to that scene for a fire that threatened to jump the intersection toward the construction site across the intersection.

Nor were we surprised to hear that the contractor had not been cited. Which kinda sucks, because a man is still sitting in federal prison for starting a fire in Tehama County that caused millions and killed three people. He had put his mower away hot and his shed had caught fire, setting  half the county ablaze.

So the city of Chico, through blatant negligence, has set the stage for  a Redding-esque fire in our town. And then City Council essentially lit the match when they unanimously approved a “shelter crisis designation’ that allows the homeless to sleep in parks and school grounds.

The cause of the Carr Fire has been reported as a car malfunction. A car pulls along the side of an overgrown highway and catches on fire. I watched a car catch fire in a parking lot and a car caught fire down my street. Within seconds  both cars were fully involved and threatening nearby cars/structures. If that happened on Vallombrosa or any other streets along Bidwell Park we’d have an inferno.

For about 12 years now the city has admittedly deferred maintenance on the park while continuing to hand out raises and pay the lion’s share of the pensions. Earlier this year Park Director Linda Herman said she needs a revenue measure to do her job – her $130,000 plus comp package isn’t enough!

Acknowledging the current disgraceful condition of our park, Herman recently told the local paper she is looking for a grant to maintain the park. See, they spend a hundred million dollars  a year on salaries, benefits , and hot water for the cops and fire department, but have no money to actually DO anything.

Are we just stupid , or what? If you’re not stupid, write a letter to council and ask them how long Upper Park will be held hostage for a tax measure.


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