Most residents to pay $150
Homeowners in Calaveras County will need to keep their checkbooks open, as the latest round of bills for fire prevention are scheduled to arrive in mailboxes in the coming weeks.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection recently updated its newest billing schedule with the Board of Equalization, which is tasked with collecting the fees from homeowners. The board is scheduled to begin mailing the bills to homeowners beginning July 15, and they will be mailed alphabetically by county, starting with Alameda – meaning Calaveras isn’t far behind.
The Fire Prevention Benefit Fee was enacted July 7, 2011, and is the result of Assembly Bill X1 29, which provides an additional funding source to Cal Fire in order to provide fire-prevention services to the 31 million acres within the State Responsibility Area.
The fee costs homeowners $150 “per habitable structure,” which constitutes any building that can be occupied for residential use. If homeowners live within the service area of a local fire district, they may be eligible for a $35 reduction per structure.
According to Cal Fire, the money collected from homeowners will help fund “strategic fuel reduction activities, defensible space inspections, fire prevention engineering, emergency evacuation planning, fire prevention education, fire hazard severity mapping, and the implementation of state and local fire plans and fire-related law enforcement activities, such as arson investigation.”
Cal Fire has been working on projects in Calaveras County over the past year.
“Vallecito (fire camp) does a lot of roadside brushing,” explained Lisa Williams, public information officer for Cal Fire. “I know they worked in Valley Springs last winter. They do a lot of clearing in the runoff area in Cosgrove, near the La Contenta Golf Course.
“And there’s been some fuel breaks over in Mokelumne Hill that helps protect (the town).”
For some county residents, however, the fire fee is not a fee at all.
“Indeed, when the government forces a fee on citizens, it is a tax, not a fee,” wrote Rancho Calaveras resident Dave Tunno in a letter to the editor last August.
Regardless of how homeowners view the fee, payments must be postmarked by the due date in order to avoid late penalties and interest charges. Homeowners are also able to submit an appeal petition within 30 days from the date on the bill.
For more information on the fee, visit firepreventionfee.org