Board authorizes abatement-related fire department assessments

RIVERSIDE – The Riverside County board of supervisors signed off Tuesday, July 11, on a Riverside County Fire Department request to add unpaid fire mitigation charges to the tax bills of individuals with properties throughout the county.

In a 5-0 vote without comment, the board approved tacking the costs onto the property tax bills of owners of 344 parcels that were assessed under the county’s Fire Hazard Reduction Program.

No one challenged the fire department’s claims during the board hearing.

The reduction program involves deploying contractors to clear weeds and related overgrowth that might otherwise fuel brush fires during wildfire season, which generally spans May to November. All of the costs involved are from 2016.

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

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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