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« Firewise help has arrived! New regional advisors visit NFPA | Main | Learn more about the Fourmile Canyon fire at NFPA's wildland fire conference »

07/28/2011

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QuickResponseFS

Molly -

I tweeted about this article when the AP released it. We all know California's budget issues - it is no secret - but how many of us believe this extra fee, a STEEP $150 annually, will go towards better education or prevention measures to protect these homeowners? Call me a skeptic but I don't see it happening that way. You hit the nail on the head when you asked whether the funds will be used for education and fuel thinning. My take: the only thing thinning out of this decision will be the firefighters as this money gets sucked into the blackhole that is Sacremento's budget. Having lived in LA (not rural, obviously) I saw first hand how well-intentioned laws and taxes end up nickel and dime'ng the citizenry out of half their paychecks only to have state government frozen in a never-ending "what shall we cut or who's money can we take" budget "crisis". I said it before and I stick by it - this is the wrong message, the wrong solution at the wrong time.

Final note - how much additional fire prevention measures could the homeowners afford with that $150? Definitely some...whether they spend it on that is another debate entirely, though whether Sacramento spends it on prevention/education measures isn't any more obvious.

Thanks,

Jason Hugo
Quick Response Fire Supply, LLC
http://qrfs.com

"24/7 Fire Fighting Superhero - Residential & Commercial Fire Sprinkler Systems from QRFS"

Linda

I agree with the above commenter. If homeowners are to pay a fee, then they should have a great deal of input and be given a lot of weight in the decision making process about the management of neighboring wildland.If wildland is poorly managed and poorly patrolled, it seems very unfair to put the burden on an adjacent homeowner. This is not a simple question, in the end.

MJ Alexander

Don't mean to sound like an anti-govt wacko here, but this looks to me like just another money grab to help balance the budget, an option that's much easier for politicos to justify to each other than cutting spending.

If they were to impose a "fee" on those of us who own WUI property, then I'd want them to collect an equivalent amount from those who visit our forests. I've never seen the statistics, but I'd be interested to learn whether or not the majority of human-caused wildfires are started by residents of the WUI. Just sayin...

Molly Mowery

Thanks everyone for your thoughts. This post generated a lot of feedback on our blog, twitter, and LinkedIn accounts so it's clear that this is a topic we need to continue exploring. It will also be interesting to track California's implementation of the new fee and see how it plays out on the ground.

B

As a Brown supporter and fire educator, I am disappointed in this decision to assess SRA folks a fee. Will some people think that now that they pay a fee, there is less need for preparedness or compliance? As a believer in personal responsibility and one who has worked with people to understand the risks of wildfire and other "disasters", to be prepared and make informed decisions, I am concerned that there will be those who relax and believe that now it's CalFire's job to take care of them. I am also hearing serious talk that some local responsibility areas (small volunteer depts.) will choose to broaden their areas of responsibility in order to avoid these fees for citizens. How good an idea is that? Lastly, how can the state assess a fee in SRA where the Direct Protection falls under another agency's responsibilty i.e. the feds? I think that perhaps it would be more cost-effective and politically less volatile to attempt recovering costs through fire trespass actions.

John Monsour

Not from California, but I have been a few fires there. I can understand the concerns for additional bills fro CA Fire, but maybe a few things should be considered.

Homeowners need to understand that if they build in a fire ecosystem it eventually will burn. In my opinion, the responsibility should be placed on the person who is building in that area. If you use government resources you should pay for the use.

Maybe a tax levee of some sort such as communities looking to build a new water treatment plant. Better yet, city Sewer lines are good examples. In some towns the main sewer line is the cities responsibility and the connection is the home owners. An additional assessment can be ascertained in the event of a wildfire.
The question is how much, what percentage, and can it be easily identified in the accounting system used for public record keeping.

Timothy Lange

It's confusing and a very hot topic in discussion here in SoCAL. There are questions about how it was passed as ABX1 29, lack of opportunity to give public comment, has some really interesting aspects. For example, there is a exemption for structures valued at less than $5,000. Backlash type posts seem to be giving a whole universe of other fees that could be created for the many diverse California geographic settings.
An interesting descriptor is the fact that it is being called a "benefit fee".
Am concerned about the possible negative outcomes for the grant project areas of: CWPP development/revision and hazardous fuel reduction. Sure hope we don't see the baby thrown out with the bathwater.

Rich Schell

I have spent 35 years as a wildland fire fighter and 7 years as a post-wildfire consultant. Yes, this is a budget issue, but solutions are limited without a synergistic solution ... fire service, homeowners, insurance companies and good Fire Safe or Firewise solutins. It's not ready to happen yet. California is a fire environment and people love the climate and build homes in high risk areas. So what does that do to wildfire suppression? One Calif. modeling program from the 1990's classified wildland areas by fire hazard zones. The model then ran hundreds of simulated initial attack fires in each wildfire zone. I specifically looked at one area in the Santa Cruz (a low risk area comparatively) area . The model identified 0.9 fire escapes for each 100 fires that occurred in that zone. If the first engine was removed from the initial attack force to protect a structure(s) the escape rate increased to 9.0 fires per 100 initial attacks. CalFire is being cut from 4 firefighters per engine to 3. That is a production reduction ... more escaped initial attack fires? Does the supplemental fee solve the problem? NO! But it is time for the fee, regardless of the budget situation. Remember, fire fighters are not the sole solution ... it takes homeowners, regulations and economic leverage to obtain defensible space compliance.

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