Foothill Residents Get Fire Fee Relief

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EL DORADO HILLS-

About 1,300 residents may no longer have to pay the notorious state fire fee assessed last year to pay for fighting wild land fires.

The maps outlining which homes are in wild land zones and must pay the $150 assessment are being changed by the state after it reviewed complaints and appeals.

That’s good news for Ed Chang of El Dorado Hills, who paid a $115 assessment. Homes already in a local fire district get a $35 break on their assessment.

“I’m surprised since we live near some grassy areas,” said Chang, of the changed boundary lines.

Some of his neighbors have refused to pay the fee. The El Dorado Hills Fire District says the response times will be the same no matter which side of the boundary a house sits.

The boundaries come into  play when the cost of fighting a fire are figured out. CalFire says it needs the extra money to pay for the cost of fighting fires with resources like air craft and hand crews.

“It comes down to who has to pay if we ended up with some helicopters, some hand crews or dozers or airplanes,” said El Dorado Hills Fire Department Assistant Chief Jim O’Camb.

But in some cases, homes in the state wild land zone are across the street from those who don’t have to pay the fee because they’re in a local fire district’s service area.

Chang sympathizes with his neighbors who have to pay the fee.

“Folks on the other side of the street have to pay, folks on this side of the street don’t have to pay, that seems to be unfair.  Either everybody is assessed or let the state pay for it,” said Chang, who says a state tax increase was approved last year and the state budget is balanced this year.

The fire district has been flagging homeowner complaints even though it did not draw up the maps.  The El Dorado Fire District’s board is on record as being against the fee.  The new maps are tentative and must be approved in July.

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