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New State Responsibility Area (SRA) Fire Zone Map - August 2012

New State Responsibility Area (SRA) Fire Zone Map – August 2012  

This month the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (“CAL FIRE”) released an updated version of the State’s SRA fire zone map. The SRA includes areas where the State of California has primary financial responsibility for prevention and suppression of wildfires. The SRA does not include lands within city boundaries or in federal ownership.

First American NHD and JCP-LGS Disclosures.com began relying on the updated SRA map for statutory SRA zone disclosures when CAL FIRE issued the map earlier this month.

The updated SRA map replaces the prior version released in May 2011. It removes acreage from some SRA zones, but expands SRA zones in other areas, including 48 of the State’s 58 counties, most notably among them , El Dorado, Fresno, Lake, Lassen, Los Angeles, Mono, Plumas, Riverside, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Shasta, and Yuba Counties.

SRA Public Viewer thumbnail The new SRA map is the first to be verified against each county assessor roll, in order to exclude parcels that are part of an incorporated city or on federally owned land. The map becomes the official basis for identifying parcels in the SRA potentially subject to the new SRA Fire Prevention Fee under AB X1 29.

Internet maps depicting the revised SRA boundaries are displayed in the “SRA Parcel Viewer” on the CAL FIRE website, which can be accessed online at http://www.firepreventionfee.org/sraviewer.php

SRA Fire Prevention Fee – bills are on the way
Also new this month is the launch of the SRA Fire Prevention Fee. This is an annual levy of $150 per habitable structure on owners of residential property located within the SRA. Where the property is also within the boundaries of a local agency that provides fire protection services, owners will receive a fee reduction of $35 per habitable structure on the property.

This fee was approved in June 2011 by the California Legislature and signed into law on July 7, 2011. According to CAL FIRE, the fee will pay for brush clearance and activities to improve forest health so the forest can better withstand wildfire, as well as fire break construction, defensible space inspections, fire prevention engineering and education, emergency planning, fire hazard severity mapping, fire related law enforcement and implementation of the State Fire Plan.

Penalties for Delinquent Payment
In early August the State Board of Equalization began delivering the Fiscal Year 2011-12 bills for the fee to affected property owners, mailing them alphabetically by county. The delivery will be completed by the end of the year. Thereafter, a billing notice will be mailed annually to the owner of record on July 1 of property in the SRA, much like vehicle registration renewals.

While there is a process for appealing the fee, the State is clear that payment of the fee is due within 30 days of the date on the billing notice. Failure to pay the total amount by the due date will result in a late notice which may include an additional 10% penalty with interest added to the past due amount.

To view a sample of the SRA Fire Prevention Fee bill, and to access the form to file an appeal, visit the State’s dedicated SRA Fee website at the link below.

Questions, questions, questions – and Answers!
Am I in the SRA? Who is the owner of record? When will the bill arrive? What is a “habitable” structure? What about condos and apartments? Do businesses have to pay the fee?

The State website includes a comprehensive FAQs page that answers most of the questions that NHD clients have asked about this controversial fee since the law was passed last year. Check out the FAQs, and the new SRA boundary maps, at http://www.firepreventionfee.org/

…And Don’t Call the County Assessor to Complain
As CAL FIRE explains, local officials, including county assessors, were NOT involved in determining which parcels are in the SRA or which habitable structures are subject to the SRA fee. Nor are they involved in the implementation, administration and collection of the fee, including sending bills or handling appeals. State law places responsibility for implementing the fee only on State agencies – without requirements on local agencies.

To Order the SRA Fire Zone and Fire Protection Fee Disclosures:

FANHD and JCP-LGS include the statutory SRA Fire Zone Disclosure as a customary feature in their “Industry Standard Report”. The Tax Section of that report also includes a SRA Fire Protection Fee Disclosure. To order a report click the ORDER NOW link in the upper right corner of this page or call the Customer Service Desk at 800.748.5233.

As always, consult your company's legal counsel or the California Association of REALTORS® Legal Hotline for an interpretation of any new law. This web page is for information only and should not be construed as legal advice.