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Proposition A worth the investment in fire safety

San Diego County residents will vote this November on a proposed parcel tax to fund continuing efforts to protect our area from the devastating effects of wildfires.

If approved by two-thirds of voters, Proposition A would raise an estimated $50 million, with half going to local fire departments and fire protection districts and the other half toward purchasing new firefighting equipment such as fire engines and aircraft.

We can understand voter pessimism over the ability of various agencies to work in concert, as their track record has been less than perfect. But strides are being made.

For instance, fire districts have moved forward with a voluntary plan to consolidate and county officials are working with the state to lift bans on night flying in situations where aerial drops are needed.

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Proposition A properly adds more assurances to ease resident concerns.

A joint-powers agreement under the proposition would create a 10-member board to oversee exactly where all that money goes and citizen oversight committees will add to that supervision.

Opponents of the proposition say fire protection problems should be addressed in East County where the majority of our fires start. But the harsh reality is that we all live in a dangerous fire area. That point was driven home in last year’s wildfires where evacuations - yes, perhaps overly cautious -occurred less than a mile from the ocean.

As the area continues under an unprecedented drought, it’s unwise to assume that we will return to normal conditions anytime soon or that conditions will ever achieve normality in a desert region facing the uncertainties of climate change.

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The property owner expense associated with this proposition must be balanced with the enormous financial impact that large-scale fires have on our county. Upwards of 1,700 homes were lost during the 2007 fires, about 500 of which were underinsured.

With our prevailing economic conditions, insurance issues will undoubtedly increase, as will hesitancy to reach into our pocketbooks for more taxes.

But it’s in the best interest of all of us to ensure that natural disasters don’t exacerbate our manmade financial ones and $52 a year (some larger parcels will be charged more) seems a reasonable amount in the quest to make our region fire safe.

We recommend a yes vote on Proposition A.