Opinion: Firefighters do an extraordinary job | SierraSun.com

Opinion: Firefighters do an extraordinary job

Rick Nolle
Guest Column

Why do some people blame firefighters for something they didn't do?

For some odd reason, there is a mistaken belief by some property owners that firefighters are responsible for the State Responsibility Area (SRA) Fire Fee of $117.33. Homeowners are required to pay the SRA Fire Fee annually to assist with fire mitigation around their homes and properties in our rural areas.

In fact, in June 2011, it was California lawmakers that approved the fee to avoid a budget cut for firefighting by the state agency, CAL FIRE.

As to whether the amount being levied is legally a fee or a tax is the subject of an ongoing debate and legal wrangling in the courts. If it is a fee, according to Proposition 26, which was passed in 2010, the law requires that any fee collected must be used directly for the benefit of those paying it.

Regardless of the legalities involved, it significantly contributes to the essential fire prevention work that must be done to keep people, property, and natural resources safer from wildfire. Not only in Nevada County, but throughout the state of California outside of city limits in State Responsibility Areas.

In order to help the people of Nevada County receive the benefits of the money raised by this fee, the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County, among other organizations, applies for grants to obtain funds to assist low-income seniors, the elderly, and the disabled.

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In addition to helping those who can't do the fire prevention work themselves, the Fire Safe Council also provides Defensible Space Advisory visits completely free to homeowners.

The grants received by the Fire Safe Council in recent years have enabled it to do a lot of other valuable wildfire mitigation work as well. The chipping program, community scale firebreaks, felling of dead trees, and so on.

Unfortunately, there is not enough money available for the Fire Safe Council to be able to provide all the assistance it would like to.

But thanks to the generosity of local donors, and the work of volunteers, they continue to offer many free services to help homeowners to protect themselves and their homes in the event of wildfire.

So, the next time you see firefighters, please remember to thank them for the extraordinary job they do to help us when we're most in need. With these additional resources, they can continue to work to prevent fires or make them easier to extinguish when they are ignited.

Rick Nolle is a broker-associate with Century 21 Cornerstone Realty in Penn Valley, Calif. He had a career in the high technology industry before moving to the Sierra Foothills; is a former Director for the Penn Valley Fire Protection District; and, is currently Chairman of the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County.