Border Fire Victims – County Waives Rebuilding Fees
San Diego — People who lost homes and buildings in East County’s Border fire will get some financial relief when they rebuild, along with assistance cleaning up the damage.
San Diego County supervisors agreed to waive two building-related expenses, cutting the monetary burden that comes with rebuilding a burned property, and give victims trash bins so that they can dispose of fire-damaged property.
Five homes and 11 other buildings on eight properties were destroyed by the Border fire, a blaze that started on June 19 near state routes 94 and 188. Cal Fire said more than 7,600 acres were burned and firefighters were approaching 100 percent containment as of late Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s an absolute tragedy for anyone who has lost everything and to put ourselves in that position is very difficult unless you have been there,” Supervisor Dianne Jacob said at Tuesday’s board meeting. She emphasized that the benefit will only be available for legally rebuilt structures.
Supervisors unanimously agreed on Tuesday to waive the fees and to provide the trash bins.
Thousands of firefighters helped fight the blaze and there were evacuations in Potrero, Lake Morena, Campo and other areas near the border with Mexico. Residents were allowed to go back to their homes on Thursday. The cause of the fire has not been determined but is being investigated.
People who lost buildings have to clear debris from their property before they can rebuild, and the supervisors’ decision will provide them with trash bins to make it easier to dispose of their waste.
“Removal of debris can be very expensive to a homeowner,” said Jacob, whose district includes the fire area.
There are also tentative plans for a hazardous waste disposal event in Potrero, but details have not been finalized, she said.
Waivers for the plan check review and permit fees are intended to help ease some of the financial hardship that comes with rebuilding a property burned in a fire.
“Today’s actions are intended to remove some financial and logistical hurdles these survivors might otherwise face,” Jacob said in a memo to other supervisors.
The cost of the plan check and permit fees vary depending on the type and size of the structure being built, but expenses generally range from around $1,000 and up. The current budget does not include funds for the bins or the financial waivers, but supervisors instructed county staff to alert them if they need to allocate money.
Victims would only be able to rebuild structures of roughly the same size and location within unincorporated parts of the county burned by the fire.
The fire is an anomaly for this time of the year, but will likely be a preview of future blazes, Jacob said.
“This kind of fire usually does not happen this time of year, this is usually in September, October. The good news is it will create a fire break for those areas that have not burned, and it’s a real wake-up call for everybody,” she said.
Tuesday’s decision only applies to the Border fire area and does not give relief to victims of wildfires to come. While there will very likely be fires later this year, Jacob said supervisors are able to quickly intervene when a backcountry blaze damages property. Providing assistance on a case-by-case basis allows them to officially define the boundaries of the burned area in order to direct assistance, she said.
“We don’t lose any time in serving people who have needs by putting it on a board agenda. But it makes it public and gets the word out,” Jacob said.