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Undeveloped Land Poses Fire Hazards, Thermal Residents Say

A brush fire erupted in Thermal Friday at the same location fire fighters fought flames last week.

Investigators called both fires suspicious. However, Friday’s fire could have simply been a rekindling of last week’s blaze, according to Cal Fire.

But nearby residents pointed to a bigger issue with long-term dangers.

Many fields in the area are abandoned and foreclosed properties, and residents claim the fields pose serious fire hazards because of the high brush and dry vegetation.

Cal Fire is not ruling out that the cause of the Thermal fires are arson.

The owner of the field dumps his agricultural trimmings on his land, according to Cal Fire, and somehow, twice in 8 days, the area caught fire.

“I think we’re seeing a lot more of these suspicious fires in areas that are overgrown,” said John Zimmer, who lives just a few yards away from where fire crews were putting out hot spots.

He worries that “Values of property” will suffer.

Zimmer took News Channel 3 to an abandoned piece of property on Monroe Street.

“All you have to do is drive by and one side of the street is country club and the other side of the street is blighted,” he said.

The piece of property extends more than 100 acres.

It was scheduled for development but “the developers went broke and now it’s sitting here in despair.”

Zimmer claimed there are thousands of acres of land in the surrounding area in the same condition — dry, and unkept.

He lives in an unincorporated area, which is why he has contacted both Cal Fire and the county to look into the matter

“It’s my understanding that the fire department really can’t enforce property owners to maintain their property, because there hasn’t been an environmental impact statement,” he said.

Zimmer owns Thermal Growers, and has lived in the area for 20 years. Considering the economy, he worries that the abandoned fields could remain undeveloped for more than a decade.

“Until that time, the residents of the area are going to have to look at properties like this and say, ‘when’s the next fire going to start,” he said.

News Channel 3 did attempt to contact Riverside County Code Enforcement. But, they are closed on Friday, and were unavailable for comment.

KESQ News Team

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