County Weed Inspections Begin in San Jose to Prevent Wildfires

Don’t let the snow in the mountains fool you. Fire season has begun in Santa Clara County.

Every year, beginning in March, property owners throughout the county must comply with regulations designed to prevent the spread of wildfires that threaten people, property and the environment.

The rules took effect March 1 for three cities – San José, Santa Clara and Campbell – and later in the spring for the unincorporated county and other jurisdictions. The rules remain in place throughout fire season, which generally ends in October.

The regulations are enforced by the County of Santa Clara Weed Abatement Program, which requires property owners to reduce fire hazards created by excess vegetation and combustible debris. The little-known program is one of the most important ways the County protects against the devastating wildfires that have destroyed entire California communities in recent years.

“Even though the weather over the past week has been wet and frigid, the time for Santa Clara County property owners to help protect their community from wildfires begins now,” said Edgar Nolasco, Director of the County’s Consumer and Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the Weed Abatement Program. “By removing fire hazards from your property, you can prevent grass fires from spreading into developed areas, where they threaten homes and families.”

Under the program, property owners must prevent grass and weeds from exceeding 6 inches in length, keep roadways clear of overgrown vegetation, and protect structures from combustible materials, among other requirements. The rules do not apply to ornamental vegetation like roses and hedges.

Keeping vegetation and other hazards in check creates buffer zones that can slow or stop the spread of fire. Eliminating fuel for wildfires is especially important for rural property owners who live on the “wildland-urban interface,” where human development ends and open space begins.

Santa Clara County is one of a handful of counties in California, including Orange and Los Angeles counties, with a standalone weed abatement program. In other areas, responsibility for weed abatement lies with the fire department.

The county program is managed by two employees who inspect more than 2,000 properties per year. The program is funded through fees incurred by people who fail to maintain their properties in a fire-safe manner.

The goal of the program is voluntary compliance, to educate property owners to cut their grass or remove wood piles and other flammable debris.

“The most important thing is we want you to maintain your property in a fire-safe condition,” said Moe Kumre, manager of the program. “It protects you; it protects your neighbors; it protects your community. We don’t want to come out and cut anybody’s grass, but we will if that’s what it takes to keep our community safe.”

Properties that are not in compliance wind up in the Weed Abatement Program based upon visual inspections by program staff, who conduct their assessments from public rights of way. Once in the program, property owners must demonstrate that their properties meet minimum fire safety standards for three years. Property owners are responsible for the costs of all weed abatement work.

Inspection season phases in gradually throughout the county’s many jurisdictions:

  • March 1 – San José, Santa Clara and Campbell
  • April 1 – Unincorporated Santa Clara County and Milpitas
  • April 15 – Los Gatos and Monte Sereno
  • April 30 – Cupertino, Palo Alto and the Los Altos Hills County Fire District
  • May 1 – Morgan Hill
  • May 15 – Gilroy

Climate change has caused a spike in the number and severity of catastrophic wildfires, with California spending most of the past two decades in a state of drought. Seven of the 10 most destructive wildfires in California history, including the Tubbs Fire, which ravaged suburban neighborhoods in Santa Rosa, have occurred since 2015, according to Cal Fire.

This has been a very wet winter throughout California, which has built up the Sierra Nevada snowpack, filled Northern California reservoirs and improved Bay Area drought conditions. All that rain will also spur a lot of vegetation growth, however, creating extra fuel for wildfires during the dry months of summer and fall.

To learn more about the Weed Abatement Program, property owners can visit the program’s webpage or read the program’s informational brochure. Anyone with questions about the requirements of the program and how it works is invited to call staff at (408) 282-3145



  1. Will enforcement be taken against San Jose? There were multiple fires in the “crash zone” encampments. It appeared Liccardo / SJ officials were unwilling to mow in order to avoid disturbing the illegal encampments.

  2. This is a joke. Nobody enforces cars being parked on the public street for than 72 hours, nobody enforces the countless motorhomes parked for months at a time and homeless encampments allowed to operate (until the federal government threatens to sue the City). Ever try calling about a loud party keeping you up on a work night? Yea… let’s worry about weeds in the middle of the City causing all these wild forest fires. Can’t we just have the current code enforcement department due their job enforcing this so-called weed problem.

  3. Also all the cars now parked on medians and in red zones. They need to be towed. Head in the sand is no way to run a city.

    How about the city start regularly mowing the grass in our parks?

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