Our View: Choosing to pay now, not later
October 25, 2007
Fire funding is a tricky issue. Do you staff and prepare for the largest firestorm, beefing up a department for the rare, but most extreme, cases?
Beyond the day-to-day operations of a department how do you plan for something as volatile, unpredictable and unknown as wildfire?
The voters in North Tahoe got it right this week when their tallied votes came up in favor of more funding for the North Tahoe Fire Protection District. Sure it’s hard to add another item onto a tax bill already lengthy with assessments, but living in a high-risk fire zone means taking on the responsibility of being prepared for dangerous wildfires.
Around San Diego, voters in the eastern part of the county voted down 32 of 50 fire funding measures over the last 30 years, according to the North County Times newspaper.
San Diego’s fire chief quit two years ago after calling his department “the most understaffed fire agency I’ve ever seen,” according to the San Diego Union Tribune.
Since then the department continues to lag behind other major cities ” many with a much tamer fire danger ” in staffing and resources.
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Today, scores of Southern California residents may want those decisions back, as some of the state’s most devastating wildfires continue to char homes and force evacuations.
North Tahoe decided, by a wide majority, not to put itself in the same position. While a $48-dollar-per-homeowner assessment won’t buy the resources to stop a raging inferno similar to the one engulfing the south state, it will step up chipping, defensible space programs and give firefighters the tools to respond quickly and early to fires before they roar out of control.
And those programs can make the difference between total destruction and near miss.
In California, wildfires are a matter of pay now or pay later. After watching the Angora and Washoe Fires locally and the flames now consuming homes in Southern California, we’re encouraged that North Tahoe residents voted to pay now.