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Jul 22, 2011 4:20 PM by Matt Stafford

Fire fee a solution for some strapped Western states

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - The wildfire season in California has been tame so far, but that isn't stopping lawmakers from trying to make sure the cash-strapped state has enough money to fight future fires.

They already have a solution: charge an annual firefighting fee to people who live in or near forests.

Neighboring states have been using similar fees for years. As more people move closer to forests and wildfires become more costly, a fee may prove more attractive to legislators when the alternative is to cut programs elsewhere in the budget.

Critics of the California fee call it unfair, saying rural residents already pay taxes to the state and should expect basic services in times of emergency.

Supporters disagree, saying that people who live in fire-prone areas should pay for their own protection.

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