Fire Prevention Fee bills have been mailed out to more than 850,000 rural Californians, many of whom will receive the bill for the seventh time. About 17,000 of the bills were sent to Eastern Madera County residents.
The fee, $117.33 a year for most habitable structures, is paid by property owners who fall under the mostly rural “State Responsibility Area,” or SRA. That includes much of the Mountain Area around Oakhurst, Bass Lake, North Fork, and stretches south past Millerton Lake.
The fee was designed for statewide fire prevention activities, such as clearing vegetation and inspecting defensible spaces or homes, along with other programs.
Controversial since the beginning, a lawsuit was filed in 2012, contending this is an illegal tax disguised as a yearly fire prevention fee. Plaintiffs include an estimated 12,000 Californians who filed written appeals of the state fire fee, which was enacted in 2011 special session of the Legislature as Assembly Bill 29. This bill required the State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection to establish the Fire Prevention Fee to pay for fire prevention services throughout the state in locations designated as SRA.
According to Cal Fire, the SRA fee provides grant opportunities for cooperators within Madera and Mariposa counties; $1.7 million has been awarded in Mariposa County and $923,548 has been awarded in Eastern Madera County, since 2014.
Grant projects include: Firewise Communities Evacuation Routes, Cascadel Tree Removal, North Fork Biomass Disposal Facility, reducing threats via removal of downed dead trees for Mariposa County, Mariposa Countywide Chipping of Hazardous Fuels Program, Hazard Reduction Lake Shore Park and Hazardous Fuels Removal along non-county maintained roads.