Board sets hearing for residents to dispute fire department assessments

RIVERSIDE – The Board of Supervisors Tuesday, June 13, scheduled a July 11 public hearing to consider opposition to a Riverside County Fire Department request to add unpaid fire mitigation charges to the tax bills of individuals with properties throughout the county.

Next month’s hearing could be the final opportunity for the affected parties whose 344 parcels were assessed for costs incurred under the county’s Fire Hazard Reduction Program to challenge the fire department’s claims.

The reduction program involves deploying contractors to clear weeds and related overgrowth that might otherwise help fuel brush fires during wildfire season, which generally spans May to November. The costs involved in the fire department’s current recovery effort are from 2016.

In most cases, the parcels that were mitigated were vacant or set off from main residences, according to agency officials.

Property owners were served with orders to abate, or mitigate, the potential fire hazards, and when inspectors received no reply or saw that no action had been taken, landscaping contractors were sent to the locations under
fire department authority to clear away the excess foliage.

“The purpose of the Fire Hazard Reduction Program is to reduce or eliminate hazards created by vegetative growth and the accumulation of combustible debris, which poses a danger to the health, safety and welfare of
the residents in the vicinity of any real property,” according to a fire department statement.

Properties in Banning, Cabazon, Calimesa, Cherry Valley, El Cerrito, Good Hope, Hemet, Juniper Flats, Lake Elsinore, Lakeland Village, Mead Valley, Moreno Valley, Murrieta, Nuevo, Perris, San Jacinto, Temecula, Winchester and Woodcrest were identified in a fire department report to the board.

According to agency documents, property owners were billed to recover the county’s expenditures, which generally ranged from $399 to $1,269 per property. A $254 administrative fee was also folded into the final bill sent to property owners. The total amount due on the delinquent list is $153,102.

Those who received notices but didn’t respond are the parties from whom the fire department is seeking payment via property taxes.

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