When Almanor Basin residents began receiving their $150 CalFire fee notices this fall, they got more than a bill.
They learned whether or not they were part of a fire protection district and were able to save $35 if they were.
The fire fees helped bring awareness to an issue that a group of volunteer citizens had been working on — countywide fire protection.
While ultimately it was decided such a lofty goal wasn’t attainable, the group is working on a community-by-community basis to include as many parcels as possible in a district.
There are many benefits to being in a fire district, from the ability to attain fire insurance to being assured of a response when dialing 911.
Jerry Sipe, the county’s office of emergency services director, has worked with the group for the past two years.
Though the group is now formally dissolved because its original mission has been completed, volunteers Pam Gill, Fred Salvato and Charlie Plopper are still working on the task.
The three originally became involved as members of the 2009-10 grand jury. The grand jury studied the threat that fire posed throughout the county and weren’t satisfied with the Board of Supervisors’ response.
They began an aggressive campaign to bring attention to the problem. Supervisor Lori Simpson, then the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, convened the advisory group that the trio served on.
But the trio is continuing the work by identifying all of the parcels that are not in a fire district.
“It’s now a grassroots effort,” Sipe said. “It’s up to the homeowners and the fire districts to work on the process.”
Sipe said that a department “must be willing and able to provide service” and the community “must be able to pay for it.”
Annexation can be an expensive process, and, if there are only a few homes to share the cost, it can be very expensive.
The volunteers have assembled some information to help educate homeowners about the process:
What do I do if I’m not in a fire district?
Check to see if neighbors are on the list posted at the fire department.
Speak with neighbors to see if they share your concern about fire protection.
Organize a group or act on your own.
Prepare a set of questions to ask the fire department.
Approach the fire department for help.
Questions to ask the fire district:
How can I get into the fire district?
What is the difference between a contract and an annexation?
What service conditions (driveway turnaround, water availability, accessibility) are required to join a fire district?
What is the fire department authorized to do?
Who inspects and enforces codes regarding defensible space?
What will it cost me/us?
What will I/we get for this charge?
Who is responsible for residential protection outside of a fire district?
There is no fire district responsible.
Does the U.S. Forest Service or CalFire provide residential fire protection?
The USFS will only protect forest lands and try to keep fires from spreading to nearby structures. There are no CalFire stations in Plumas County.
My property is outside a fire district, but I’m sure the fire department will show up to fight my fire.
Fire departments don’t want your home to burn no matter where it is located in the county as long as they have available resources. But there may be a cost.
Will I get a bill for services if a fire department does come put out my fire and I live out of a district?
It depends. Most fire departments will send a bill for fire or medical calls that are outside of their district. Departments follow specific guidelines on when and how to send a bill for out-of-district calls.
How is my homeowners insurance affected if my home is outside of a fire district?
If your home is not in a district, you may find it difficult or expensive to get fire insurance.
Can I join a fire district?
Perhaps. Contact your local fire department. They may be willing to provide services by contract or annexation.
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