State rural fire fee postponed

03/28/2013

The $150 state fire fee imposed on residents of unincorporated areas like West Marin that set off a maelstrom of complaints and appeals has been temporarily postponed, according to California Department of Forest and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) spokesman Dennis Mathisen. Last year, when the fee was implemented by the state legislature as a way to offset decreased funding for Cal Fire, 87,000 appeals were filed; 12,000 of those have so far been granted. Fees have been waived or reduced for various reasons. Some were incorrectly assessed as being inside the State Responsibility Area (SRA), but others were given because Cal Fire calculated the wrong number of habitable structures on a property or listed the wrong owner, and some mobile homes were double-billed. This year’s fee, originally scheduled to be sent out April 2, will be delayed until the agency finishes reviewing the appeals, a process that Mr. Mathisen said will help “fine tune” the SRA maps. He added that the bill should go out sometime this spring. Cal Fire contracts with Marin County, and paid the fire department about $3.7 million last year to provide fire prevention services within the SRA.