California increases fire fee

Christopher Rosacker
The Union

GRASS VALLEY, Calif.-and#8212; California’s Board of Forestry and Fire Protection approved a fire fee increase for rural homeowners on Wednesday.

The board approved a $60 increase to a total of $150 for property owners within the Calfire determined State Responsibility Areas. To determine whether you live in a SRA, go online at, launch the viewer and type in your address.

The only reprieve from the increase is a $35 credit for persons who pay into a local fire district.

The increase comes after the board adopted a fee structure in August, capped at $90, which also had credits for persons within SRAs who already pay a local fire district fee.

Most affected Nevada County property owners live in areas covered by fire protection districts and therefore already pay annual assessments. And that is what concerns local firefighting entities, already facing reduced funding in the wake of the economic downturn.

Nevada County Consolidated Fire District residents already pay an assessment of more than $100 a year per improved parcel. Facing dwindling finances, district Chief Tim Fike said he already is pushing for a close to $50 per year increase from property owners just to maintain services.

and#8220;If we don’t get it, we lose some of our staffing level,and#8221; Fike said. and#8220;There is nowhere else to cut. We’ve slashed to the bone.and#8221;

But with the SRA fee increase, Fike said, convincing property owners to pay more will be difficult.

and#8220;It’s absolutely morally defeating,and#8221; he said.

Fike said he already fielded questions from irate property owners on Thursday. He said most are under the misconception that some of the SRA fees will trickle down to his district.

The board’s fee increase is not without opposition, as anti-tax groups have announced plans to sue the state, according to the Nevada County Board of Supervisors.

State Sen. Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) referred to the fee increase as a and#8220;constitutionally questionableand#8221; tax, enacted after California’s elected lawmakers rejected an increase earlier this year.

and#8220;This new tax on rural Californians has been deeply flawed from the very beginning,and#8221; LaMalfa said in a release. and#8220;It is not the responsibility of those living in non-urban areas to bear the cost of fighting fires in California’s mismanaged forests. Frankly, I find it un-American that our government leaves such weighty decisions to unelected and unaccountable boards and commissions.and#8221;

– Liz Kellar contributed to this story.

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