Last week’s TC had a letter from Shari Fae giving an extremely misleading view of what’s happening with revising the Hill’s fire abatement codes. Scott Fisher’s letter raises some reasonable questions. I want to answer both with the following points, of which they seem to be unaware:

1) Chief Hawkins created the committee out of a discussion at our summer Mountain Area Safety Taskforce meeting. At that meeting, I raised the issue of hazardous, overgrown vacant lots because of clear community concern expressed at our town meeting in June. MAST agrees there are holes in our code/inspection system that, if filled, would improve our overall fire safety.

2) No one I know involved with this process has suggested creating a new tax or fee. I don’t know what the committee will decide — I’m not on it — but I’m reasonably sure the typical Hill resident will see no change in fees or taxes as a result of their proposals. Let me repeat, no one has suggested raising fees or taxes.

3) All Hill homes are subject to current county or state fire codes. Our fire agencies — Cal Fire, Forest Service and Idyllwild Fire — already have inspection programs ensuring compliance.

4) The committee is tasked to review best practices. San Bernardino County has a very effective abatement program, and so its code and program will be studied.

5) The committee operates under the authority of Riverside County Fire Department. Any proposals for a change in code will be brought before the Board of Supervisors for approval, as is customary for county public safety codes.

6) Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council is a nonprofit devoted to fire safety. We enthusiastically support this committee because we think it’s needed. It’s not our committee, however. We have two seats out of eight. The committee has met twice and has lots of work to do before arriving at any decisions on code revision.

7) Both MCFSC and Chief Hawkins believe in dialogue with the community, and though nothing is scheduled, there certainly will be at least one town meeting to discuss committee proposals, along with articles in this newspaper.

What I and everyone at MCFSC hope for are committee proposals leading to a reduction in hazardous parcels, whether developed or vacant, and a process that strikes reasonable people as both fair and effective. The present system can be improved, and I hope the committee leads the way.

Mike Esnard, President
Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council