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Saturday, August 11, 2012

State fire fee needed for vital services - By Ken Pimlott

 Ken Pimlott - CAL FIRE Director

 It's important to understand Cal Fire's legal fire protection responsibility in order to understand why the fee is being assessed.

Cal Fire is responsible for the prevention and suppression of wildfires across the state's 31 million acres of State Responsibility Area (SRA). This includes 201,015 SRA acres that fall within Marin County.

These 31 million acres of SRA represent critical resources that must be protected for the benefit of all Californians. These resources, or public trust values, include such things as water and watersheds, open space, wildlife habitat and natural resources.

All taxpayers fund our efforts to protect these valuable resources through the state's general fund.

What the new law addresses are the benefits those individuals in homes in the SRA receive that the rest of the state's residents do not.

Through passing the law, the Legislature and the governor recognized the presence of structures within the SRA can pose an increased risk of fire ignition and increased potential for damage.This is borne out by the fact that people and their associated activities account for over 94 percentpercent of all fires in the SRA.

The fee will fund a variety of vital fire prevention services across the SRA that include activities to improve forest health so our forests can better withstand the damaging effects of wildfire.

The types of fire prevention activities funded by the fee also include fire break construction, defensible space inspections, fire prevention engineering, emergency evacuation planning, fire prevention education, fire hazard severity mapping, implementation of the state's Fire Plan and fire related law enforcement activities like arson investigation.

To illustrate just how important these prevention efforts are, I'd like to highlight the fact our investigators recently arrested three individuals on suspicion of three separate acts of arson in the North Bay, Sierra foothills and in Sacramento County.

One of the individuals we arrested is suspected of starting the 2,560-acre Placer County Robbers fire, which cost taxpayers an estimated $16 million to suppress. If our efforts prevent just a handful of these kinds of large, damaging fires, the cost avoidance alone is worth the $9.58 a month that the average homeowner will pay for the fee.

In order to provide residents answers to their questions about the fire prevention fee, Cal Fire has provided for a Fee Service Call Center staffed Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (except holidays). The number is 1-888-310-6447.

We've also created a comprehensive website with answers to frequently asked questions and helpful links —

As with any new fee, those that receive the bill should know why the fee is being charged and I appreciate the opportunity to explain the rationale in this venue.

As we enter what is historically the time of year when our state's largest and most damaging fires occur it is incumbent upon all Californians to take steps to prevent wildfires from starting.

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More Information: About the Fire Prevention Fee

California Fire News 2012

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****REMINDER**** Every fire has the ability to be catastrophic. The wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Growing numbers of communities, across the nation, are experiencing longer fire seasons; more frequent, bigger, and more severe, fires are a real threat. Be careful with all campfires and equipment.
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