Santa Barbara homeowners’ self-imposed taxes help mitigate the effects of wildfires

Santa Barbara houses after wildfire
Santa Barbara. Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo

In 2006 homeowners in the foothills area above Santa Barbara, California voted to impose a tax on themselves that helps to make their homes more likely to survive a wildfire. The families in the lower foothills pay $70 a year while the tax on the “extreme foothills zone” is about $90. The homes are part of a special district, the Wildland Fire Suppression Benefit Assessment District, that was approved and extended by the City Council in 2009 and 2010.

In 2008 and 2009 the Tea and Jesusita fires burned into the foothills of Santa Barbara. The number of homes lost would have been even greater if some of the homeowners had not maintained clearance around their properties. An ordinance requires homes in the lower foothills zone to have a 100-foot clearance, while the clearance in the extreme foothills zone is 150 feet.

The services provided in the special tax district include:

  • Defensible space inspection. If the homeowner requests it, a fire department  inspector will come to the site, inspect the property, and provide advice on what could be done to prevent damage during a wildfire.
  • Clearance of vegetation along roads.
  • Chipping services. The taxpayers can place cut vegetation along the road and the city will chip it for them.
  • Vegetation management, clearing brush-free zones in large open areas. This is done by fire hand crews, goats, and privately contracted brush crews.

The Santa Barbara Noozhawk has an article that provides more details about the program.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.