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Fight the Fees!
updated: Dec 11, 2012, 9:50 AM

By Edhat Subscriber

Is anyone fighting the "Fire Prevention Fee" assessment? I am on Foothill Road with a fire hydrant across the street from my house and one directly behind my house. City Fire Station #4 (Ontare) a mile and a half away responds to emergencies across the street while County Station 15 (Foothill), a half a mile away, responds to everything else around me. I was under the impression this fee was for the "rural" homes and we are hardly rural. The folks across the street in the city have not had this fee assessed. What's the deal?

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 352755 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 10:00 AM

Things cost money. The state is broke. Our big fires in recent years have drained fire prevention funds beyond reason.


 COMMENT 352759 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 10:07 AM



 COMMENT 352762 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 10:14 AM

I just paid it. I was $115/yr for us. During the Jesusita Fire Fire, our house was saved so I just feel grateful!

I know other houses were also saved that do not need to pay the fee, but our house is in a more dangerous fire area in comparison to others since we are closer to the forest.


 COMMENT 352765 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 10:17 AM

Nope. See flames from your house...you will support it too.


 COMMENT 352776P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 10:35 AM

don't live in a high-risk fire zone if you would prefer that everyone else in the community pay for the extra protection you receive


 COMMENT 352779 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 10:38 AM

You live in the County and pay fewer taxes than those across the street who live in the City for the same services. Welcome to a step closer to equality.


 COMMENT 352781 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 10:42 AM

The reality of life is that government services cost money. Another reality is that we want the services but we don't want to pay for them. These are incompatible realities.

Sooner or later, we've got to figure it out. Something's gotta give!


 COMMENT 352782P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 10:50 AM

Glad to see that all the comments so far are No. Many are from people like me who have lived through a big fire and had their house threatened but saved by the firefighters. Heck no, I am not fighting it. It is one "tax" that I gladly pay. I paid my $115.00 the same day the bill came. No complaints from me.


 COMMENT 352783 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 10:50 AM

Do people living on the Eastside or Westside pay more for police protection? So why should people living in Mission Canyon pay more for fire protection? Do you think firefighters would not stop a forest fire if there were no homes in Mission Canyon? Ofcourse not - otherwise the Eastside would burn down. I can understand a person living in the middle of a forest - but not a whole area of homes that just happen to be closer to mountains than ones living in the city. Do homes on the mesa get taxed for tsunami prevention services? I love the US and agree we all need to pay our share - but the gov't needs to live within its means.


 COMMENT 352789 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 10:58 AM

During the Gap fire the flames came within 150 yards of my home in Goleta. The firefighters were camped in our backyard for three days and they, and a dozer line, stopped the on coming fire. I stayed at my property and felt the wind, heat, and noise from 150 yards. It scared the crap out of me but the fire guys were total pros the whole time. Yes, I pay a lot of property taxes but I was happy to pay $115 for the fire prevention services provided.


 COMMENT 352791 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 11:04 AM

The only downside of this tax is that it is not proportional to the property value. Big estates and small cottages pay the same amount. That's the way the rich like it of course.


 COMMENT 352798P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 11:26 AM

First, I don't live in the assessment area. Second, yes goverment services cost money. However, the problem with this tax is that it is doubtful that we will see any services in the front country from this tax. That is because the closest CALFIRE station is in San Luis Obispo County- 2 hours away. Residents here in Santa Barbara are being taxed to provide fire services in other parts of the state. This is taxation at its worst.


 COMMENT 352807 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 11:49 AM

start taking responsibility for your own property and we WOULDN'T have these huge fires...
Cut your overgrown trees and shrubs around your houses...NO ONE has done anything in Mission Canyon, Montecito or the foothills of Carp!


 COMMENT 352812P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 12:01 PM

This board really does have a split personality! (Yes, of course it does! And should.)
There was so much outrage earlier on this topic. I look forward to seeing if the OP is joined, or if the critics were just blowing off steam.
OP, you stated your case well, I am NOT saying you are outraged or steaming. And many pertinent comments were made in the past.

It's really worth a look back at the discussions of this issue here on Edhat, you'll get some (still contradictory) info, and opinions of course. There are several threads. Use Edhat's search: enter "SRA" and THEN hit the button that says "Try Our New Search." (I specify because I had to be taught how to use the search button.)

Personally, having lived and worked through so many fires and being traumatized by the Painted Cave fire, I would pay a small extra tax toward fire protection. I understand not trusting who collects and where the tax monies end up, but I grew up in and live in the city and would be happy to put money toward SB county and even state fire. I just don't think my $5 or $10 would go very far, but if everyone did it... I feel the same for earthquake prep and rebuilding funds, like for Hurricane Sandy. I'd chip in for the good of my city, county and state, and those who inhabit it.

Painted Cave was traumatic and horrific; and I worked in a very involved local government department during Zaca, Gap, Tea & Jesusita fires. Still faintly remember the folks having a car packed up to head to the beach during the Coyote fire; ash in our front yard, on our heads; fire on the hills. We lived about 4 blocks north (or would that be east) of upper State, near but well below Foothill, in the La Cumbre Plaza area. (I was a teen during the Sycamore Fire, so it didn't affect me much. It did later, as I became friends with people who had lost everything.) Losing much or all to natural disasters is only going to increase, due to many factors, climate and population foremost, I believe.


 COMMENT 352819 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 12:10 PM

Thank you Ed for stating the obvious and often overlooked fact of public life today. Costs are rising all around and yet we want to pay less in the belief that the economy (whoever that is) will miraculously fill the void.


 COMMENT 352821 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 12:14 PM

OP here - Thank you for the comments. @807 - for well over a decade Mission Canyon has had a highly successful annual brush, bush and tree clean-up. As for my neighborhood, it's small lots. No brush to clear, no dead trees etc. My concern is I'm already paying over $800 in additional "fees" and bonds on my property tax. I am distrustful of this "fee" (actually a sneaky tax) going to fund the actual costs to the state to fight fires and not be used for other programs, pensions and the like. And, why shouldn't all residents be paying this? Haven't these fires crossed into the city as well? I had to pay it, you have no choice although you can ask for an exemption. One can only wonder what impartial panel is reviewing those requests!


 COMMENT 352827 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 12:22 PM

I was thinking about signing the petition to repeal the Law, but you have to pay in advance anyway.
Does anyone know if you can claim this on your Taxes like your property tax?


 COMMENT 352841P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 12:50 PM

I'm in Montecito, and my $115 tax (which I paid) is not quite enough to pay for one hour of the Montecito Fire Chief's salary ($116.33/hour on his $242,000/year salary). Also, my house, along with many of my neighbors', burned in the Tea Fire, although during the entire first night there was ONE fire engine going east to west on Mountain Drive between Coyote Road and El Cielito. That was it in my neighborhood. I don't mind paying for services that might be rendered, but I object to coming up with what is a lot of money to me to pay for one hour for the Chief.


 COMMENT 352848 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 12:57 PM

Does anyone remember the story of the house fire back east? They had not paid their firefighter tax and the fire department stood by and watched it burn to the ground. All they did was make sure the fire didn't jump to the neighbors who had paid their tax. I bet a lot of people sent in their payment the next day. A little tough love goes a long way.


 COMMENT 352877 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 01:59 PM

I paid and now if my house burns after fire prevention can not supress the fire either because of lack of initial response which has happened in the past or because it is spreading or moving too fast do I get a refund for services not rendered?


 COMMENT 352892 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 02:24 PM

@848 - A Santa Barbara History Legend...
On the evening of February 8, 1927, the Rockwood Hotel in Misison Canyon (site of today's Woman's Club) caught fire. The main building and two of the five cottages were lost, with an estimated value of $60,000. According to legend, the city fire department was the first to respond, but stopped at the Mission Creek Bridge, the dividing line between the city and county, when they saw the fire was on the county side. - Neal Graffy P.S. The full story - A Hotel in Mission Canyon? - is in edhat for December 13, 2009


 COMMENT 352893 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 02:27 PM

It's interesting to see the difference in proponents and opponents in this thread and the helicopter thread.


 COMMENT 352907 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 02:43 PM

I paid. I didn't want to have to pay the late fees. I really wish that the funds would go to the LOCAL fire protection district and NOT to the State. The State has a very bad track record of using such funds for other expenses. I am all for Fire Prevention, but again - give the $$ to the LOCAL Fire Department. The probability of CAL FIRE assisting in a local fire, or providing any 'prevention services' in the local area is low.


 COMMENT 352910P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 02:52 PM

I think many of those affected would be happier to pay if the majority of the "State" fee was distributed to local agencies as a extra fund to keep brush crews or other items dealing with our area. We don't really have any CalFire footprint here till after the fact so though its a worthy agency it does seem like a unfair tax. In a area with Calfire infrastructure the fee is a definite benefit to them, but in places like our front country we don't have a Calfire presence.

As for the "we have to pay more for services" chorus Bloomberg's wire service had a interesting article on California's spending problem. They tied a lot of current problems to Gray Davis's brief term as Governor and his giveaways to public employee unions. It's worth noting former Governor Davis now says they were a big mistake joining all of our former Governors of both parties (and current Governor) who say public employee unions and costs need to be scaled back. It seems most people would rather just pay more fees/taxes than listen to all of our former Governors and the current officeholder.


 COMMENT 352936 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 03:29 PM

People on the mesa do not in fact pay a tax for tsunami prevention services, but this is mostly because they're not in a tsunami zone, or even a flood zone since they're 150 to 400 feet above sea level. It is also partially because there is nothing that can been done for tsunami protection aside from marking evacuation routes. Which is the only thing you can do in the event of a tsunami: evacuate up and inland. But don't let the facts stop you.


 COMMENT 353035 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 06:26 PM

I thought everybody in cali lalaland fonia loves to pay mucho taxes.


 COMMENT 353084 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 08:20 PM

A tax masqerading as a fee. It's illegal, though not uncommon. We are not undertaxed. The Government overspends. It can only be stopped at the ballot box. Stop voting voting for Liberal overspenders, please.


 COMMENT 353151 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-12 07:19 AM

The funny part of this is that you folks think this fee gets applied locally. What you're paying for is CalFire (CDF) funding and the nearest CDF jurisdiction is either SLO to the north (Nipomo Station 20) or Ventura (Ventura Camp). Also funny how people roll over and comply without educating themselves first.


 COMMENT 353159 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-12 07:54 AM

For those who wish to fight the Fire Tax Fee here is your go to web site firetaxprotest.org This is a project of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Ass'n. Down load the petition and follow the instructions and be sure and send a copy of the petition to all three government offices. Also if you google this subject there is a ton of information out there.


 COMMENT 353161 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-12 08:00 AM

What I find disgusting is all the people in their million dollar + homes complaining about a $115 - $155 fee...

What sucks is all the people who dont live in million dollar homes in high fire zones who have to pay taxes to support those who do... we already pay our firefighters more than anywhere else and now the folks who need the help the most are balking at a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of their homes value to offer wildfire support...

As an former wild land FF I think the fee should be 10x... after all these people chose to live where they do...


 COMMENT 353180P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-12 08:57 AM

to OP: many, many inequities in where the lines were drawn.

Homeowners living just yards from my parcel do not pay the extra fee, though we both live in the county and already pay a fire services fee on our property taxes; their lots are covered with Eucalyptus "Tiki Torches", while my lot is cleared and planted in fire resistant planting zones. They have old shake roofs while my house is stucco and the roof is concrete. I have a fire hydrant in front of my house. THAT is what makes me angry, and the fact that the money goes into a fund to be used anywhere in the state at their discretion. It is NOT however used for actual fire suppression services rendered.


 GARFIELD agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-12 11:03 AM

People that engage in high risks behaviors are taking risks. They should pay a higher price to be insured.

Insurance is a cooperative where we share risk with others having similar risk profiles. I do not want to share my low risk with high risk takers.

People that live on the beach in Malibu, or in the forests, are asking others to pay when (not if) nature drops the hammer on them.


 COMMENT 353504 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-12 08:42 PM

I am a retired firefighter and would like to add my perspective.

I live in the CIty of Santa Barbara and I pay an additional tax for living in a "High Fire Hazard Area" The fee goes to laudable programs for hazard reduction and the like. We get one "free" chipping of brush each year. I did NOT support this tax because in my view everyone in the city should have to pay it....the brush eventually will catch houses on fire on the other side of APS (Sycamore Fire) or further if the wind keeps up.

Cal FIre regularly sends groups of fire engines down here when we have "Red Flag" conditions. Sure is nice to see those guys staged and ready to respond....

Montecito residents already pay an "override" of some sort to fund their department. Similar measures have failed in Carp a couple of times.


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