Rural residents brace for $115 CalFire bill

2012-08-12T20:52:00Z 2012-08-15T18:23:32Z Rural residents brace for $115 CalFire billKERANA TODOROV Napa Valley Register
August 12, 2012 8:52 pm  • 

Despite protestations of financial pain, Napa County residents living in rural areas should receive a bill from CalFire for fire protection sometime over the next few weeks.

Rural residents will be billed $115, which is $35 less than residents of many other counties because rural Napa County is also protected by the Napa County Fire Department, according to CalFire.

The bill covers the 2011-12 fiscal year, according to the Bureau of Equalization, which is tasked with collecting the fire prevention fee. The bills for fiscal year 2012-13 will be mailed in the spring, state officials said.

Under the law passed in June 2011, the fee is assessed on 7,300 owners of habitable structures in areas known as “State Responsibility Areas.”

Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for CalFire, said the money will allow CalFire to have a stable source of revenue for fire prevention. CalFire’s budget has been trimmed by $80 million over the past year and a half, he noted.

The new fee has raised the ire of many. Napa County Supervisor Diane Dillon, Napa’s representative to the Regional Council of Rural Counties, has voiced her strong objections, saying that residents in unincorporated Napa County already pay for fire protection.

Among those affected are low-income mobile home residents and seniors on fixed incomes, Dillon said.

“It might not seem like much, but it’s another 10 bucks a month,” she said.

Longtime Berryessa Highlands resident Tracy Renee questioned why rural property owners — instead of every citizen in the state — are singled out to pay the fee. Large fires on state and federal lands occur on lands that belong to all the people, she said.

It will be an additional financial hardship on residents, she said, noting that her homeowner’s insurance has increased by more than $1,000 a year.

“It’s just one more thing,” Renee said. “It’s just one more expense.

“Everybody is going to be nickeled-and-dimed to death,” she added. “It just goes and goes and goes.”

In addition to the new fire fee, residents at Lake Berryessa are also facing steep water and sewer assessments to pay for costly water and sewer system upgrades.

John Hallman, a Berryessa Estates resident, noted that his neighbors are continuing to lose their homes to foreclosure.

“Their families end up splitting up. It’s very hard on people. Right now is not the time to burden people with more taxation,” he said.

If the fee is assessed, the revenue needs to come back to the community for fire protection, Hallman said. The biggest need is fuel reduction, he said. “I don’t think we can rely on grant funding.”

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has opposed the charge, which it calls a tax, according to press statements.

The first bills, which are being sent to counties alphabetically, will be sent this week to residents in Alameda, Alpine and Amador counties, according to CalFire. Rural Napa County residents will first receive a notice the bill is coming.

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(14) Comments

  1. vocal-de-local
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    vocal-de-local - August 12, 2012 9:15 pm
    Regarding the comment, "If the fee is assessed, the revenue needs to come back to the community for fire protection, Hallman said. The biggest need is fuel reduction, he said. “I don’t think we can rely on grant funding" .........I agree, Resources should be applied toward reducing fuel load. I was driving up Deer Park Rd, the other day and brush is at least 2 ft high alongside the road. Remember a Deer Park Rd fire a few years ago caused by a spark when a vehicle pulled over onto the shoulder? Was that not enough of a lesson? The point is, if you're going to charge rural residents higher fees, apply them toward fuel reduction, especially in a rural town with a higher population of students who probably have no idea how to evacuate an Angwin firestorm.
  2. Lucy White
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    Lucy White - August 12, 2012 9:37 pm
    Napa / East is and always has been an incredible available resource. If there had ever been any support from NC… If Lake Luciana had been approved… If restrictions and zoning were made appropriate… If the General Plan were receptive to unique opportunities…If NC/BOS had voted against BOR’s Plan B… If Pope Valley were allowed to open/remodel/grow…If NC developed the Boy Scout Camp at Lake Berryessa…If NC had acted responsibly and upgraded the water/sewer systems at Berryessa Estates and Berryessa Highlands years ago… Napa / East would be running a parallel to Napa Valley with water recreation as the center point of use and tourism, on its way to a world destination. It is time for an about face from the BOS to optimize the potential of the lands to the east, and many of the problems of the liabilities would disappear, and the East could be the asset it is intended to be.
  3. vocal-de-local
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    vocal-de-local - August 13, 2012 11:19 am
    Lucy, the article is about higher fees (above and beyond what residents already pay in taxes) for all rural County residents, not just Pope Valley. In fact, we are in bigger trouble today because of development in rural, difficult to access areas. If we turn Pope Valley into Napa Valley via increased development, it will increase need for fire prevention resources, not decrease them.. Pope Valley is not easily accessible. Where do you plan to locate a flat highway to faciliate increased tourism? Pope Valley has more in common with Lake County in that the limited access involves traveling over narrow, windy roads. This situation also makes it more challenging when it comes to fighting fires and evacuating residents. Locating more development in Wildland Urban Interface regions will increase taxpayer input, plus it will subject residents to new fees as described in this article because we are headed toward a 'user pays' system.
  4. tomo
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    tomo - August 13, 2012 1:49 pm
    I grew up in Napa, east of twon and was subjected to many, many fires, especially the conflagration in 1964. At that time, 48 years ago, firefighters were not trained to the level that they are today. Firefighting is now a science. I can understand the objections, especially as much of the country is graying and it can be a burden to that population. But things are more expensive than they were even just 20 years ago, let alone 48 years ago. Our fire protection district nEast Contra Costa County just had a parcel meansure turned down, $197 per year for 10 years. About half of the firefighters-16 or so-were laid off, three of the six stations were closed, in our distrxit that is between 250-350 square miles, much of it delta land. Response times have increased in the district by about 1:03 minutes, that's if an engine is available. Our most rural 'community' Bethel Island doesn't have a statio any longer.
  5. vocal-de-local
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    vocal-de-local - August 13, 2012 5:44 pm
    Tomo, I remember the 1964 fire. We had to evacuate our home. I was a young child at the time and I will never forget that experience. Even though firefighters are more highly trained today, they also face more wildland fire risk because the fuel load has been allowed to increase. The forest needs reduction/thinning. We need to consider how nature would have thinned it out 300 years ago when a lightning strike hit it and there wasn't human intervention. The fuel load was less then because of the freqeuncy of fire. Firestorms are more a result of negligence on our part. We suppress fire but do nothing at all to reduce load. It's a big problem.

    If I'm paying an additional fee, I would like for it to be applied toward fuel reduction, especially in communities such as Berryessa Estates and Angwin, where more lives are at risk. Angwin also needs a serious evacuation plan for PUC college and its grade schools. Every college student should know the evacuation routes.
  6. gettingreal
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    gettingreal - August 13, 2012 8:03 pm
    Vocal, How does people owning and developing rural property put us in "Big trouble"? Obviously you bought into that whole "Smart Growth" scam. If your leaders get their way we will all live in little boxes on the transit corridor and ride bikes. Americans deserve better than that!
  7. Lucy White
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    Lucy White - August 13, 2012 10:14 pm
    Today’s headline “2 large fires burn over 5,300 acres in Lake County” - It is the federal and state lands which are putting us most at risk for massive fires which threaten our lands and resources. The federal government owns 48% of California. What has been put into “conservation lands” becomes unmanaged fuel forests for raging fires such as what is currently happening in Lake County. There are almost no roads in the area which could assist fire fighters with access and fire breaks. Like many others, this expansive fire is wiping out important eco systems, range lands, trees we need for oxygen, and threatening and/or destroying surrounding private property. The solution is to privatize more lands, which could help fund better management practices.
  8. Lucy White
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    Lucy White - August 13, 2012 11:14 pm
    Vocal - Higher fees due to gross mismanagement, federal and county. Federal mismanagement from hording our lands which were to be disposed of at statehood, from amassing such lands that cannot be managed by the agencies, and from Conservation and Wilderness Designations which eliminate or highly restrict the use of roads and equipment to protect our lands. County neglect of maintaining infrastructure systems at Berryessa Estates and Berryessa Highlands resulting in pollution and failed systems, from that huge fines and now new assessments to those residents. Now asking rural residents to pay more for Sierra Club type of “conservation” [restricted use of lands/special grant seeking for restoration] which leads to a higher level of fire danger – is abusive. Especially when the combined government agencies have stripped the rural areas of their economy and assets.
  9. skeptic
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    skeptic - August 13, 2012 11:19 pm
    i am so glad i can post today , without the $10 a month charge.thank you dianne, for standing up for your rural residents that elected you. we already pay for fire protection and locals volunteer their time on our wonderful fire dept. and many of the rest of us volunteer monetary support, without any outside pressure, other than our conscience. vocal’s comment should be paid attention too.due to radical environmentalists intervention, the culling of undesirable undergrowth has been banned by lawsuits from the sierra club and others. thus, the current fires spread because fire lanes have been sued
    for interfering with mother nature. against successfully. it used to be common for us to see fire lanes cut by bulldozers and chainsaws to stop a forest fire . now they are sued out of existence
  10. Lucy White
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    Lucy White - August 13, 2012 11:34 pm
    Vocal – Pope Valley just like other gems of this county have a right to glow in the sunshine of recognition. A grander vision would realize that these local communities carry the American spirit of dreams for success – the local government does not have the right to take the heart out of unique areas. People who live in areas like Pope Valley, or Berryessa Highlands, do not need suppression of every aspect of their lives because you or the local government don’t understand the natural development which would evolve. That is a little bit of the mystery and wonderfulness of what our freedoms should be. A prospering community brings with it elements of good management – you simply seem to put up false barriers for any development – let Pope Valley and other communities build their futures and help protect our lands.
  11. fmmt47
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    fmmt47 - August 14, 2012 8:24 am
    So charging rural residents in high risk fire areas a $150 annual tax is like charging Oakland residents and additional tax because the live in "high risk" crime areas. vocal de local: The brush and overgrowth problem will not go away, most projects to clear brush or clear fire trails require an EIR after the Sierra Club files suit to stop the projects. You can thank them for this mess, all fire trails and brush clearing has pretty much been stopped due to the discovery of some "endangered" weeds on the existilng fire trails. When I lived in Napa the entire Atlas Peak and east side mountain rangel was criss crossed with fire breaks and fire trails, most are now gone.
  12. vocal-de-local
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    vocal-de-local - August 14, 2012 4:41 pm
    I'm not condoning the fee. I'm saying that if we MUST pay it, I want it used for fuel reduction. If the fee is applied toward education, we should teach property owners how to reduce fuel without damaging the environment. Also, I think the diehard environmentalists are missing the boat on this one. We need brush cleared out asap and we need fewer obstacles to make it happen. By thinning the forest out, we reduce firestorm risk. Firestorm is probably not a natural event, except in isolated environments. By turning a blind eye, we add more to the firestorm fuel pile. When firestorms occur, they are far more damaging to the environment than smaller, human controlled forest thinnings.

    Also, more housing development is not the answer, especially dense housing in rural areas, such as is proposed in Angwin. We put more lives at risk alongside increased resources to protect homes. There's no way I'm going to buy into the argument that development will improve the situation.
  13. debhealer
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    debhealer - August 14, 2012 7:06 pm
    We have absolutely no problem with this assessment. Worth every dollar! But our $250 base rate water/sewage monthly bill ( that's before any water usage)-that we have a problem with.
  14. skeptic
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    skeptic - August 17, 2012 10:28 am
    if anyone tries to build a fire trail or take out underbrush in a national forest they will be sued by the sierra club. this is the reason for giant firestorms like the one that took out 3’4ths of the trees in yellowstone’s happening again in lake county right now. the underbrush allowed to accumulate isn’t just dangerous tinder. it keeps animals like owls from survival. they can’t see the mice from up in a large tree due to all the brush. they are thriving in areas like across the st., where a winery cleared the underbrush and left the big trees. spotted owl couples sing a sweet tune at night. they are thriving in private forests too,because brush is cleared to make big trees thrive .
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