STATE FIRE PREVENTION FEE
We hope you have done all that you can to make your home and the area around your home as fire safe as possible. We are going to do something a little different this month. The words that follow come to you from a letter the Sonoma County Fire Chiefs Association is sending out very soon. Here is what they have to say:
One of the more publicized events to have come out of Sacramento for the first time in many years was a budget delivered within the constitutional deadline. One of the lesser known outcomes associated with the delivery of the budget was the 11th hour inclusion of a Fire Prevention “fee” on parcels within the State Responsibility Areas (SRA). What is an SRA fee? According to the Board of Equalization bill analysis, it is a “fee” of up to $150 for each “habitable” structure “to fund fire prevention activities.” Given that most properties outside of the nine incorporated Cities in Sonoma County lie within the SRA, chances are, if you don’t live in a city, this fee will apply to you. As an organization that represents almost every fire agency in Sonoma County, the Sonoma County Fire Chiefs Association feels it is important to share our concerns about the new Fire Prevention Fees with the public, our locally-elected officials, and our state legislators:
As written, the new Fire Prevention Fee legislation remains vague. Because it does not recognize that most properties are also served by a Fire District, it will be difficult to implement in an equitable manner. Even those who will be responsible for its implementation acknowledge that “a lot of details will need to be worked out.”
Since homeowners in the SRA are already required by law to maintain a defensible space around their homes (and many do), it is difficult to envision what the direct benefit will be for these homeowners who are charged the $150 fee. Furthermore, since the vulnerability of a home to a wildland fire varies throughout the county, as do the prevention efforts that are needed to safeguard it, applying the same fee without consideration of these efforts creates an inequitable process.
To borrow a cliché, the “fee” will likely generate unintended consequences for many local agencies (some all-volunteer) who provide fire and emergency medical services (EMS) year round and through the election process passed (some by 2/3rds vote) local assessments to fund their services. In many cases the new Fire Prevention Fee will more than double these local assessments and subsequently will make it unlikely that voters would ever support any future increase for their local fire agency. The potential loss of this revenue may ultimately result in a decline in fire and emergency medical services to these very communities.
Finally, as every firefighter in California knows, most large conflagrations occur due to significant climatic conditions such as droughts combined with strong wind events and low relative humidity. As written, a fee that is designated to fund Fire Prevention activities will do little to prevent or offset the operational costs of controlling these fires.
We encourage you to contact the Governor and your State representatives and share your concerns regarding the new SRA fee.
Sonoma County Fire Chief's Association
HOME SAFETY TIP
As of July 1, 2011, the Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act (SB 183) requires all single-family homes with an attached garage or a fossil fuel source to install carbon monoxide alarms. Owners of multi-family leased or rented dwellings (e.g. apartments) have until January 1, 2013 to comply with the law. More information can be found at:
Click on "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on Carbon Monoxide (CO) Devices". This is the law, it is not an option.
Bodega Bay Fire Protection District
While the above Fire Prevention Fees are not good news, we do have some. By aggressive action of our staff, several members of the Board, and Supervisor Efren Carrillo, the County has awarded our District a onetime allotment of $ 100K from the Transit Occupancy Tax (TOT) advertising fund. This allotment is due before the end of 2011. The second component of the allotment is to look at ways TOT monies can be used to offset the impact that TOT has on public safety agencies that do not regularly benefit from TOT support. This will help us in meeting our ongoing expenses. Your Board is trying to ensure this funding continues in future years.
As the final paperwork is completed and the fiscal year closes out, Bodega Bay Fire is ending the fiscal year on a slightly positive note. The expected deficit was averted. Originally expected to hit almost $200,000.00 the year ended with about $10,000.00 more in revenue than in expenses. Frozen wages, vacant positions, saving where possible and unexpected revenues are the reasons we did not dip into reserves. We are not out of the woods yet. The County money will help, but we still face some of the same challenges experienced by all.
Russian River Fire Protection District
As you can see, the state has implemented a $150 “Fire Prevention Fee” or “SRA Fee” for homes that are in the State Responsibility Area. The purpose of this fee is for fire prevention initiatives in the SRA. While all of the Russian River Fire District is in the SRA, the District receives no pass through from the state for fire suppression or prevention services. If you have any questions, please call the Administrative Office at 869-9089 or the On-Duty Crew at 869-0553.
The next meeting of the Board of Directors will be on August 10th at 6pm at the fire station. We hope you’ll consider attending.
Visit us on line at http://www.russianriverfire.org.
Forestville Fire Protection District
The Board of Directors of the Forestville Fire Protection District support the position that the Sonoma County Fire Chief's Association has taken on the new State Fire Prevention Fees and officially opposes the implementation of this legislation. Approximately half of the District's 3000 homes are within State Responsibly Areas. If the fee were to be imposed at its maximum, $150.00 per inhabitable structure, the State would receive approximately $225,000.00 from the residents of the Forestville Fire Protection District. This is more than the special flat tax approved by 2/3rds of the voters of the District in November of 2011, 100% of which goes directly to the Forestville Fire District.
Graton Fire Protection District
We Are In!!!
On Saturday, July 23rd, we moved into the new fire station on Highway 116! After 60 years in the former train depot, we are now in a building that can keep all of our equipment indoors, kitchen, dayroom space, sleeping quarters, showers, etc. And it doesn’t leak! Thank you to all of the difference contractors and subcontractors who worked very hard to build such a great station.
Once the landscaping is done in a few weeks, we will have an open house and invite everyone to see the Graton community’s new Fire Station. We appreciate everyone’s great comments and words of support over the last five years of design, planning, and building... we’re finally there!
The siren has been moved to the new station and is operating. Everyone will notice that it sounds different because of the new location. Other than a new coat of paint, it is the same siren. We have stopped using it at night (10pm-7am) except for major calls as part of our agreement with the Citizen Advisory Committee and County Board of Supervisors. The law suit regarding the siren will be heard in September; however, five of the seven plaintiffs have withdrawn. We are hopeful that it can be resolved quickly.