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Another View

We can’t wait 7-10 years for wildfire control

By: Gordon Ainsleigh
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It’s so obvious that Robert Weygandt’s statement of necessity for thinning California’s forests is completely valid (Another View, Journal Nov. 29). It could make California reasonably fire safe in seven to 10 years and we need to start now. However, as Paradise-in-flames has shown us, we need a plan to get us through to that time of safer forests.

Each year, California’s firefighting capacity is far exceeded by the number and severity of simultaneous wildfires. What is needed for the next 10 years is to greatly increase our firefighting capacity. We need, for instance, three times as many fire suppression aircraft. But the question is: How do we pay for that? I have a suggestion.

Remember the grossly-unfair “fire tax” on all parcels outside city limits? Remember how the money was wasted on detective work to prosecute fire-starters instead of being used to lower fire risk? Remember how we in the country had to pay, while the places where the most damaging fires occurred paid nothing because they lived in Oakland or Napa or Paradise? It was beyond abusive and unfair, and the $150/parcel price tag hurt people of humble finances who lived in humble homes.

But what if that fire fee was really low — say, $20/year for modest homes —applied statewide regardless of urban/rural locations, scaled to the dollar value of the property, and included in our property taxes? I’ll leave it to the number-crunchers to figure out how much that would bring in, but I’m pretty sure it would be enough to triple our ability to suppress fires.

It’s time for Supervisor Weygandt, and the rest of us local politicians and bureaucrats, to talk to our state representatives, especially Senator Ted Gaines, who is about to promote to the Board of Equalization, about getting a small, inexpensive, affordable, statewide fire parcel tax, so we’ll have three-times as much aerial fire-suppression capacity by next summer.

After all, the whole of California society benefits from having healthy watersheds, which require healthy forests. And the whole of California loses timber sale values and recreation opportunities, and pays for post-disaster rehabilitation, after these devastating wildfires.

H. Gordon Ainsleigh, Auburn Recreation and Park District board member