The law that created the Fire Fee also established the appeals process;
Time is Critical!
- The Fire Fee bill must be paid and/or appealed within thirty days of the billing date (which is when the bill was sent, not when you received it). Late petitions are generally not accepted. This means that if a petition is not filed within the thirty days, the bill becomes due at the end of the period. (14 CCR Chapter 13, Section 1665.5(a)(4))
- The petition must be in writing. CALFIRE has provided a form that can be used to appeal. It can be downloaded HERE.
- The law requires that the petition be mailed to the California Department of Forestry’s Fire Prevention Fee Service Center;
P.O. Box 2254, Suisun City, CA 94585
- Each petition is required to include:
1) The specific grounds upon which the appeal is being contested (see next bullet point);
2) Evidence supporting the claims made in the appeal.
Grounds for Appeal
Grounds for appeal can include (but are not limited to) any of the following:
- The structure is commercial (not residential). The regulation developed by the Forestry Board defines “dwelling unit” as including “provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation.” (14 CCR Chapter 13, Section 1665.2)
- I was not the owner in July 2013. The property owner is defined as the individual, company, corporation, or other entity that was the owner of record of the property on July 1. (14 CCR Chapter 13, Section 1665.2)
- The structure is not within the SRA. Be sure to double-check the maps and make sure that your home is within the SRA. If it’s not, the fee doesn’t apply to you. (14 CCR Chapter 13, Section 1665.5 (a)(3))
- This bill is an unconstitutional tax. The California Constitution requires that new taxes be approved by 2/3rds of the membership of both houses of the Legislature. Because many homeowners will not see a direct benefit from their payment of the bill, this charge is a tax (and not having been properly approved by the Legislature) is illegal. Note: Cal-Fire will reject appeals filed on these grounds, but the appeal is vital to ensuring you remain eligible for a refund should the lawsuit prevail.
Once You File
Once CALFIRE has received your petition, they will have sixty days to review the petition and issue a decision in your case.
- After receiving your petition, CALFIRE may request additional information if, in their opinion, the petition did not give adequate information to permit full review. (14 CCR Chapter 13, Section 1665.5(a)(4))
- All decisions must be provided to you in writing. (14 CCR Chapter 13, Section 1665.2)
- The petition can be updated (and new information provided) at any time until the Department of Forestry issues its final decision. (14 CCR Chapter 13, Section 1665.5(a)(6))
The review by the Department of Forestry will be completed within sixty days and will be provided to you in writing (with the reasons for the decision indicated). In that written notice, they will have notified you whether (1) the fee was valid and you should be billed the full amount, (2) the fee should be modified, or (3) the fee should be eliminated.
If it is determined that a refund is owed you, a claim must be filed with the Board of Equalization for repayment. The refund claim may be filed by either the property owner or CALFIRE.