Locals to benefit from SRA fee money

Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat /

Local fire prevention efforts could get a boost thanks to some money to be set aside in the state budget.

Earlier this week, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection announced it would use some of the money collected through the controversial State Responsibility Area fire fee for fire-protection projects.

Once signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, perhaps as early as today, the state budget is expected to include a $10 million appropriation for projects around the state as part of a one-time grant program. The total is only a portion of almost $60 million collected so far from high-fire-danger properties in Cal Fire's jurisdiction.

Though the fee - about $150 per property per year - is controversial in the Mother Lode, the grants could benefit local fire districts, cities, counties and fire prevention programs that have ready projects that just need the money.

"If that happens, I think it's going to be a great influx," said Bill Fullerton, project manager for the Calaveras Foothills Fire Safe Council.

The Murphys-based group is one of a handful in the area that take on fire prevention efforts like clearing brush, creating fuel breaks and helping property owners with defensible space. Fullerton said on Thursday that the group runs continual projects like helping elderly and disabled residents to clear brush, roadside fuel reduction and door-to-door slash chipping services.

The council also maintains a wildfire protection plan with hundreds of fire-prevention projects that could use the money.

For the full story, see the June 20, 2014, edition of The Union Democrat.

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