Guest View: Cast your vote to make a fire-safe township
October 26, 2008
At Lake Tahoe, the threat of catastrophic wildfire is something we try not to dwell on. Just as those who live with the threat of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes or tornadoes try not to dwell on the constant risk that natural disaster might disrupt their lives, we hope catastrophic wildfire won’t happen to us. The June 2007 Angora fire on the South Shore, however, was a wake-up call not only that the threat is real, but also that there is something we can do to minimize the risk.
This is why we formed Citizens for a Fire Safe Community to encourage voters in the Tahoe Douglas Township to approve a measure appearing on the Nov. 4 ballot that would help finance forest-fuels reduction and make our community more fire-safe.
The Tahoe Douglas Fire Question would authorize up to 5 cents per $100 of the assessed value of homes or commercial parcels to be collected to provide a reliable funding source to complete fuels-reduction work to protect our lives and property. The investment for homeowners would range from $50 to $150 per year, providing the fire district with approximately $650,000 annually to apply to this important work. Without this investment, ongoing work to create fuel breaks to keep fire from spreading into our community or between our neighborhoods might be delayed. Approving this measure will also provide local funds that can be used as a match to grants that are not now available to the fire district. The measure would sunset after 30 years, and each year, the actual amount collected would be set according to the amount needed for this work – never above the 5 cents authorized by voters, but possibly less. The funds will be used for fuels-reduction work only and not commingled with any fire district general-operating funds. They would be applied with full transparency and accountability.
We all must take responsibility for making our own property more fire-safe. Owners of residential properties, in particular, should create defensible space around their homes. While the fire-protection measure would provide some services to help with this, the bulk of the funds raised would focus efforts on fuels-reduction work in the forestlands and open spaces around our neighborhoods. A large part of this is achieved by helping to continue the 20-person Zephyr Fire Hand Crew, which not only will accelerate completion of these important projects, but also increase the number of “first responders” we have on hand during fire season in the event that a wildfire starts.
While we understand that these are difficult economic times, it is crucial that we approve this modest investment so that our firefighters have the tools they need to make our community more fire-safe. The cost of completing and maintaining necessary forest-fuels work is a fraction of the cost of fighting another fire like Angora. We ask that you join us by being proactive in protecting our community from catastrophic wildfire. For more complete information or to ask questions of the committee, visit our Web site at http://www.votefiresafe.org.
– Steve Teshara is a resident of Round Hill and chairman of Citizens for a Fire Safe Community.
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