Property owners in the unincorporated areas of the Valley will receive a bill for a fire prevention fee in the next few days. Many are confused. Some are fighting mad.

The fire fee is assessed by California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, CalFire, on all inhabitable structures within state responsibility areas. It doesn’t matter if the property owner already pays taxes for fire protection service or that CalFire has no presence in the area. 

Bills to San Bernardino County property owners began hitting the mail Oct. 22. All San Bernardino County bills are to be mailed by Tuesday, Oct. 30.

All unincorporated areas of the Valley are within the state responsibility area. Those communities, which include Big Bear City, Sugarloaf, Baldwin Lake, Erwin Lake and Fawnskin, are served by Big Bear City or San Bernardino County fire departments. Property owners pay taxes for that fire protection. Because those areas are already served, the fee is reduced to $115.

CalFire does not have a presence in the Valley. There are no engines or stations in Big Bear, says Big Bear fire chief Jeff Willis. In fact there are only 11 CalFire engines in all of San Bernardino County. More than 62,000 homeowners in San Bernardino County will receive a bill for the fee, according to the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.

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I believe the fee is a TAX, The CA Health and Safety Code 31317 prohibits the state fire marshal from charging fees in excess of actual cost. CA Fire does not provide services in the Big Bear Valley so fees are unwarranted (unless it is a tax)