Statewide fire fee suspended in California climate change deal

As part of a climate change deal, California's statewide fire fee has been suspended.
As part of a climate change deal, California's statewide fire fee has been suspended. Special to Sierra Star

As part of a climate change deal designed to help reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions, the controversial state fire fee, which charges rural residents $117 a year for fire prevention programs, has been suspended.

The Sacramento Bee reported earlier this week that a promise has been made to put the fee on hold as part of an extensive cap-and-trade deal.

According to Cal Fire, the fee provides grant opportunities for cooperators within Madera and Mariposa counties. Up to April of this year, $1.7 million has been awarded in Mariposa County and $923,548 in Eastern Madera County.

Grant projects include: Firewise Communities Evacuation Routes, Cascadel Tree Removal, funding for the 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.

Some have criticized the fee as being unfair. Last year, a lawsuit filed against the state by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association moved forward in court. The suit contends the fee is actually an illegal tax, and that if the HTJA were to win in court, anyone who mailed their fee with markings indicating it was “under protest” would receive a refund.

The lawsuit continues in California court. A call to the HTJA has yet to be returned for details on its progress, but updates can be seen at www.firetaxprotest.org.

A previous story on the lawsuit can be seen by clicking here.

Though the suit was filed in 2012, residents have paid the fee up to July 1.

The fee is paid by an estimated 850,000 property owners - some 17,000 in Eastern Madera County - who fall under the largely rural “State Responsibility Area,” or SRA. That includes much of the Mountain Area around Oakhurst, Bass Lake, North Fork, Mariposa, and stretches south past Millerton Lake.

A map of the SRA can be seen atwww.firepreventionfee.org/sraviewer_launch.php.

For more information about the SRA fee, see www.fire.ca.gov or www.firepreventionfee.org.

This story will be updated.