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The State of California has begun mailing bills to rural property owners for fire prevention.

If you own habitable property in CalFire’s jurisdiction (known as the State Responsibility Area), you are affected.  You will eventually receive two bills this year–one for the State’s 2011-2012 fiscal year, and one for its 2012-2013 fiscal year.

Each bill will be $150 per habitable structure on your property.  For example, if you have one house on your property, and no other habitable structures, you will receive two bills this year totaling $300.  On each bill there should be a $35 credit if you already pay a special tax or assessment to a local fire protection agency.

This new annual fee was imposed by the Legislature (all Democrats in favor, all Republicans opposed) at the request of Governor Brown.  It is being collected by the Board of Equalization and administered by the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE DUE DATE.  You may have fewer than 30 days to pay.  If you are late, there is a 20% penalty, plus interest.  Every 30 days after that, another 20% penalty is added, plus interest.  The fee is a lien on your property, and failure to pay can result in foreclosure.

Challenging the Fee and Claiming a Refund

We at the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association believe this fee is really an illegal tax under Proposition 13.  We plan to challenge the constitutionality of this tax in court.  To learn how to protest the tax and claim a refund, click here.