ELECTIONS: NORTH TAHOE FIRE PROTECTION CANDIDATES SPEAK
October 21, 2008
Pandola: The goal is to keep the fires small by reducing the overall amount of fuel, and maintaining separation from the things that will burn from the things we dont want to burn, like our homes. I support the current pilot programs underway in the Talmont area of the fire district. This program insures that property owners that either cant or wont provide defensible space will have their property cleaned by a private contractor which is hired by Calfire. The cost of the work completed will be added to the property tax bill. The North Tahoe Fire Protection District also has a free chipping program that not only helps to create defensible space, but it also creates a partnership between the firefighters that respond to fires and the community members they are trying to protect.Loverde: We need to understand that 70 percent of properties in our fire district are second home owners or vacant land owners. Over the past few years our fire department has sent out educational packets stressing the need, the how-to, and the resources available to create defensible space around individual properties. Property owners have become acutely aware of the need for defensible space due to the tragic Angora and Washoe fires. Our free chipping program has been tremendously successful. The best insurance in creating and maintaining defensible space is best characterized as a neighborhood watch. If you see that your neighbor or perhaps a property down the street hasnt created/maintained defensible space, a quick call to your fire department will insure a follow-up from your department. We are presently evaluating an enforcement program, but it will take the cooperation of several agencies and only time will tell if we are on the right track.
Pandola: I support backyard burning because it is part of a comprehensive defensible space program. I would insist that the current regulations be continued in order to prevent any backyard fires from escaping and spreading into the forest fuels or neighboring homes. These regulations include requiring a burn permit; to burn only on days that are typically in late fall with high humidity, no wind, and cool temperatures. The burn pile must be supervised and there must be water and a shovel available at all times. It is also important for the property owner performing the burn to inform his or her neighbors so everyone is aware that it is an intentional supervised burnLoverde: My feelings on backyard burning are negative in that I am not an advocate of backyard burning. It is true that our fire department can issue a backyard burning permit that requires conforming to a list of rules and procedures. It also requires phone call confirmation with the Placer County Air Pollution Control Board regarding smoke pollution and Cal Fire regarding burn days based on weather conditions. We also, from time to time, will do site inspections to make sure the rules and procedures are being followed correctly. My bottom line is that there is too much room for human error, changeable weather, i.e., a gust of wind that could send hot embers flying onto another property. Our fire department has initiated some fuel reducing control burns in areas where we can make a community impact, i.e. a neighborhood or homeowners association area. This is only done with the concurrence of those affected
Pandola: In the last three years we had a supplemental property tax increase, and most recently an assessment. Both of these property tax increases were for specific needs and both have a built-in cost of living adjustment provision. I am concerned about increasing any taxes and believe there are many positive actions the district can take that dont cost anything, such as a community fire patrol on high hazard days. The question of growth is one that no one knows what the future will bring. I am in favor of the developer paying for any service improvements needed in order to meet the fire suppression requirements of a new project. Each of these situations would have to be considered on a case-by-case basis, with the main goal of protecting the community from fire as well as from an over burdened tax bill.Loverde: The North Tahoe Fire Protection Districts income is supported mainly from property tax revenues along with ambulance revenues and federal/state grants. What probably most taxpayers do not know, that starting in 1993 the state under ERAF, Education Relief Augmentation Fund has this tax year taken +$700,000 from our tax revenues, and on top of this, for the last several years, the Placer County Redevelopment Agency has also raided our coffers of +$650,000 In any event, the first assessment in 2005 (approved by 73 percent of the registered voters) was to offset our losses to the state and PCRDA in order to maintain the districts level of service. The second assessment (Fall 2007), Fire Suppression Assessment was approved by 71 percent of all property owners and these funds can only be used to mitigate the risk of catastrophic wildfires There are community financial oversight committees for both