Newly revised map indicating Cal Fire responsibility areas (in yellow)
The controversial California Fire Prevention Fee may soon affect more property owners in San Diego.
If proposed changes to the fire-zone map are approved, some rural county residents will have to start paying the annual fee to help fund fire protection, while others will be relieved.
In 2014, as the drought dragged on, Cal Fire faced 1000 more fires than the norm. The fee, which supports preventive activities like brush clearing, is billed to owners of habitable structures in state responsibility areas; i.e., a zone that doesn’t include lands within city boundaries or in federal ownership.
In San Diego, the $150 fee was first assessed in August 2012. In 2013, it increased to $152.33 and may continue to be adjusted annually for inflation, according to the agency’s website.
Now, Cal Fire has released an updated fire zone map that shows where the state is financially responsible for firefighting (which is where structure owners must pay the fee).
The map reflects changes in land use and density and adds 4729 acres throughout California. Overall, the agency estimates a net loss in the total number of owners who will be charged the fee in 2015-’16. But the spread is uneven; as many counties lose acres to become local responsibility areas, others show large net gains where the fee is incurred.
In San Diego, 2139 acres would be added to the state responsibility area and 194 acres would be removed, with much of the land being within Pala and other Native-American reservations. Parts of Lakeside, El Cajon, and Escondido would also be affected.
A series of public hearings was held in February to discuss the proposed changes to the map. A hearing to approve the changes will be held March 4 at the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection meeting in Sacramento.
In parched San Diego, 65,832 parcels were billed for the fee in 2014, according to Cal Fire’s website, more than any other county.