The week before Christmas, about 2,000 Benton County landowners were notified they would be taxed by the state for forest fire protection and prevention.
The letters werent regarding tree stands near Alsea or remote houses around Summit, though. Most arrived at homes in subdivisions near Lewisburg and at the southern edge of Corvallis.
Those spots arent normally considered forest land, but they have enough trees, brush and grass to be a fire hazard in the eyes of the Oregon Department of Forestry.
Devastating fires can happen at the edge of urban areas, said Mike Totey, assistant district forester.
Totey pointed to grass fires that swept through Texas and Oklahoma this week, destroying 100 houses and killing five people.
Fighting fire is much more complex and difficult where there are homes, he said.
The Department of Forestrys new additions to the forest patrol assessment roll should raise more than $100,000 per year, because most properties will be taxed $56 annually.
However, the notices came as a surprise to many landowners, such as Donald Brehm, who lives on Windsor Place in northwest Corvallis.
Im in the city limits, and Im in a regular city lot, said Brehm.
Who wants to add to your taxes? asked Judy List, who lives on Northwest Ponderosa Avenue.
About 100 people, including Brehm and List as well as Corvallis Fire Department Chief Dan Campbell, have requested a re-evaluation on whether their property belongs on the forest fire tax rolls, according to the forestry department.
Some residents had other choice words for the agency, as well.
Steve Laam, district forester, said property added to the tax rolls often wasnt decided by what was on a lot, but, rather, what surrounded it.
Fire protection is becoming more and more of an issue as people move out into the forest land, he added.
The forest fire tax has been in place for decades, but there has been a lapse in what has been assessed for 15 to 20 years, and many lots were accidentally dropped from the rolls, Totey said.
A lot of people who should have been taxed werent, he added.
Were just notifying people who should have been paying that theyll be paying in the future, Laam said.
The agency did inspections on homes this summer to determine what should be added to the forest fire tax rolls, and 1,000 to 2,000 lots will be looked at next year.
The area that well be trying to work through next year will be out around the Highway 34 corridor and along the county fringe down toward the south, Totey said.
Landowners added to the forest patrol assessment will see that on their fall tax statements.
Much of what is collected will go to fight large forest fires throughout the state.
By KYLE ODEGARD Corvallis Gazette-Times
Kyle Odegard covers public safety, Philomath and rural Benton County.