30,000 local homeowners to get bills for fire prevention from state

Owners of roughly 30,000 habitable structures in rural areas throughout San Luis Obispo County will receive bills for fire prevention from the state next month.

The fees were brought about by state legislation passed in 2011 that was based on the philosophy that people in rural areas need protection beyond that of city dwellers, and should pay for it.

Those residents call the fees double taxation, and County Supervisor Frank Mecham says he has heard there are lawsuits already filed or in the works against the fees.

“I know a lot of folks in my district are not happy about it because the money doesn’t come back specifically to the area that it is collected,” Mecham wrote The Tribune in an email.

Meanwhile, according to County Fire Chief Rob Lewin, the state Board of Equalization is sending out the bills.

Because there is a San Luis Obispo County fire department, fees will be lower here than in counties that don’t have a department.

The fee here will be $115, compared with $150.

Households on the hook for the new fee are those in “state responsibility areas,” where Cal Fire is in charge of fire protection — not a municipal fire department.

With 29,849 habitable structures on the Board of Equalization list, San Luis Obispo County has the fifth most among the state’s 58 counties, surpassed only by San Diego, San Bernardino, Placer and El Dorado counties. San Diego has 101,000 structures subject to the fee, far and away the greatest number in any county.

Lewin said people with concerns or who want to appeal the bill when they receive it can go to www.firepreventionfee.org or call 1-888-310-6447.

Lewin stressed that the money is for fire prevention only, not for fire protection.

“We will not be adding firefighting resources with the revenue,” he wrote in an email to The Tribune. “It will be used for fire prevention activities such as fuel treatment, public education, law enforcement, etc.”

The Fresno Bee contributed to this report.