San Diego Fire Tax Trails

Measure needs two-thirds vote to pass

With a majority of precincts reporting, the measure to create a San Diego County fire department to protect an area ravaged by wildfires in recent years was failing early Wednesday.

Proposition A would create a county firefighting authority by establishing a $52 annual parcel tax on the county's landowners. The measure requires approval by two-thirds of voters -- a tall order even in a good economy.

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The measure had support of nearly 63 percent of voters with 32 percent of precincts reporting -- about 4 percentage points short of the approval threshold. A final result was not expected until early Wednesday morning.

Proponents say the measure will address what is widely considered a big hole in the state's defense against wildfires: lack of protection in the sparsely populated, chaparral-covered mountains east of the nation's eighth-largest city. Firestorms in 2003 and 2007 swept into heart of San Diego from rural areas.

 A county grand jury report in May found the San Diego region remained "woefully unprepared" for a major wildfire, saying that a patchwork of chronically underfunded fire agencies are assigned to protect rural areas where a majority of the fires start.

 Proposition A would raise about $50 million a year, half of which would pay for the new agency's aircraft, engines and other equipment. The rest would be shared by existing fire agencies.
Some critics say the measure would create bureaucracy and unfairly burden taxpayers served by existing fire departments. Other critics say a lot more money is needed.

Wildfires claimed more lives and homes in San Diego than any other county in California's devastating firestorms of 2003 and 2007.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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