Funds to reduce fire fuels up for vote
October 6, 2008
Among the decisions facing Douglas County voters Nov. 4 is whether they’re willing to pay to decrease hazardous forest fuels in their neighborhoods.
If approved by voters, the “Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District Question” would tax property owners in the fire protection district a maximum of 5 cents per $100 of assessed value of their property. The tax would generate about $650,000 per year for the next 30 years.
Assessed value typically is 35 percent of the county’s taxable value of a property, according to Citizens for a Fire Safe Community, a proponent of the measure.
For the average homeowner in Round Hill, the cost of the measure would likely be around $60 per year, said Ann Grant, a member of Citizens for a Fire Safe Community.
Money from the tax would go specifically to fund the Zephyr Fuels and Fire Hand Crew.
The 20 members of the crew are trained as wildland firefighters and also are responsible for fuel-reduction projects on private and public land in the Douglas County portion of the Lake Tahoe Basin.
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The crew has completed fuel-reduction work on about 300 acres this season, according to figures from the fire protection district. More than 3,400 acres remain in need of treatment under the Tahoe Douglas Community Wildfire Protection Plan.
The crew was formed in 2007 using Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act funds.
Future funding for the crew is possible through the act but uncertain, said Chief Guy LeFever with the Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District.
Advocates of the measure contend approval is essential to avert a major wildfire in the Douglas County portion of the basin.
“Basically, what people are paying for is they’re paying to insure the future of our community,” Grant said. “You look at Angora, and it’s never going to be the same in our lifetime – maybe our children’s’ lifetime.”
Each of the neighborhoods in the fire protection district have either a high or extreme risk for wildfire, Grant said.
The idea of additional taxes doesn’t necessarily sit well with at least one Douglas County voter.
South Shore resident Henry Butler said he would vote “no” on the measure, saying property owners should be responsible for their own defensible-space work.
“It’s not the kind of thing government has to do,” Butler said.
In May, the California-Nevada Tahoe Basin Fire Commission recommended “more stable, long-term funding to replace the stopgap funding provided by the states.”
Such funding would likely be “through the collection of a parcel fee or similar special assessments on property owners,” according to the commission’s final report.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons formed the commission in the wake of the Angora fire.
Property owners can determine the assessed value of their property by visiting the Douglas County assessor’s database at http://assessor.co.douglas.nv.us/database/default.asp.