May 15, 2012
Contact: Jehan Flagg, 916-447-4806
Rural Counties Testify Against Fire Fee Implementation
Sacramento - Today, the Regional Council of Rural Counties (RCRC), with the help of one of its board members, testified before a regulatory hearing, strongly voicing objections to imposing fees on structure owners in the State Responsibility Area (SRA).
RCRC board chair of the regulatory committee and Amador County Supervisor Richard Forster testified on behalf of rural counties against SRA fees, also referred to as a ‘fire fee,’ during the San Diego implementation hearing of the California Board of Forestry (Board). Recognizing the hearing was to gather public input for regulatory implementation of existing law, passed in 2011 as Assembly Bill 29X, Forster took the opportunity to share rural county concerns with the law, just the same.
“RCRC has opposed SRA fees throughout this process, and we remain opposed,” said Forster. While we understand the Board is required by statute to adopt permanent regulations imposing the fee, RCRC still believes the repeal of AB 29X is the best approach.”
A number of arguments against SRA fees were made, including the potential long-term liability to the state by assuming a greater role in fire prevention when homeowners paying the SRA fee expect that Cal FIRE has made their homes fire-resistant. Subsequently, if residents’ homes are destroyed in a wildfire, and it is discovered that Cal FIRE has done little prevention work, those homeowners could have a legitimate claim against the state.
“Cal FIRE needs a healthy and strong local fire protection infrastructure to achieve its mission and protect California from the effects of wild fires. SRA fees weaken the State’s mutual aid system by unraveling the “respond-first-we’ll-figure-out-the-cost-later” understanding. I can assure you that the rural fire districts I represent will begin to contemplate the costs involved in responding to mutual aid efforts on behalf of the state,” added Forster.
SRA fees also erode grant opportunities. According to calculations by the California Department of Finance, which were presented to the Board at their March meeting, there will be no local (fire) grants available for a minimum of five years because money generated will be used to administer this new program. Additionally, many landowners in the SRA have already agreed to assess themselves for fire protection and prevention services. Therefore, imposing an SRA fee effectively taxes people twice without any additional benefit.