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Fire Prevention Fee billing begins third year



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May 14, 2014
Residents who live in Cal Fire's area of responsibility have begun to receive their annual bill for the state's Fire Prevention Fee according to a recent news release from the firefighting agency.

The State Responsibility Area (SRA) Fire Prevention Benefit Fee, now in its third year, pays for fire prevention services including fire break construction, emergency evacuation planning, and implementation of the state fire plan.

"It goes toward the different programs and services that we provide for fire prevention and that can be anything from brush clearing to homeowner education, basically anything you can do to prevent a fire from starting in the first place," said Cal Fire Public Information Officer Daniel Berlant.

The fee comes as a result of Assembly Bill X1 29, which was signed into law in July of 2011 establishing a fee for fire prevention services in the 31 million acres of SRA, including outlying portions of Valley Center, Pauma Valley, and Palomar Mountain. Since its inception, more than $80 million has been collected and utilized to help prevent wildfire.

"To date about 84 million dollars has been collected for the fire prevention fee," said Berlant.

Since January, and as a result of the dry winters and ongoing drought conditions Cal Fire responded to over 800 wildfires, nearly triple the number of fires in the same time period in 2013. The number of wildfires this year also exceeds the five year average of just over 600, according to statistics found on the agency's website.

Cal Fire has established a website, www.FirePreventionFee.org, which contains comprehensive information about the fee and helpful links to maps where residents can check to see if their property is included in the SRA and answers frequently asked questions.

A customer service call center is staffed Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (except holidays) to further aid homeowners that have questions about the Fire Prevention Fee. The call center number is (888) 310-6447.

Under the law, the Board of Equalization (BOE) is responsible for collecting the fee. Bills in San Diego County began to be mailed to residents alphabetically on May 8. The current billing is for Fiscal Year 2013/14, which runs from July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014. The fee applies to the homeowner of record as of July 1, 2013, for all habitable structures within the SRA.

This year the fee is levied at the rate of $152.33 for each building that can be occupied for residential use. Owners who are also within the boundaries of a local fire protection agency will receive a reduction of $35 per structure. Bills are due 30 days from the date printed on the bill and can be paid online, by calling (855) 292-8931 or by mail.

"This year's drought has left much of the grass and the brush very, very dry and with the number of wildfires we have already responded to this year, having the ability to prevent fires in the first place is very critical," said Berlant.

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