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Marin Officials Voice Support For Parcel Tax Aimed At Wildfire Prevention

MARIN COUNTY (KPIX 5) -- Government and fire officials in Marin County will soon be asking residents to support a new county-wide parcel tax for wildfire prevention, and early polling shows it may be an easy sell.

People love living in Marin County because of the "woodsy" feel of the place.  But, these days, that also has residents a little nervous.

David Ovadia's home has a panoramic view of Marin County but the hills below are covered with trees. He's removed a number of them on his property and Wednesday had a crew clearing brush.  But he knows he can't be fire-safe all by himself.

"If I do all the work in my area, my property and next door is not doing it nor the other person down the street…that's not good enough," Ovadia said.

Ovadia sought advice from the fire department to assess his property and lower his risk and it turns out he's not alone.

"The public is scared. They're coming to us. We're receiving hundreds and hundreds of phone calls," said Marin Fire Chief Jason Weber. "We don't have the resources to deal with all of that. So, really this is a ground-up effort from the community telling us we need to do more."

Fire departments throughout the county are banding together to coordinate a new comprehensive prevention effort including vegetation reduction, beefed up enforcement, a grant program for low-income homeowners and a massive education program.

On Tuesday night, the Marin County Board of Supervisors expressed support for a county-wide parcel tax initiative to generate money to do it all.

"This is not something we should analyze to death and wait and see and try to fine tune," said Supervisor Katie Rice. "They want to act now. They know they have to do things on their own property. They want us to be doing things on a larger scale."

The measure would create a joint-powers agency to oversee the estimated $20 million annually. Homeowners would be taxed 11 cents per square foot on structures with an average bill of about $200 per year.

While that sounds like a lot, Fire Chief Weber says early polling shows voters support the idea by a margin of 75 percent.

"It is serious. And, yes, I fully support raising taxes or anything else to take care of those things" said Ovadia.

Fear can be a great motivator, and the disastrous firestorms of the past two years have convinced a lot of people that spending money on fire prevention is well worth it.

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