Per RCW 52.26.180, the Valley Regional Fire Authority is funded by a voter-approved fire benefit charge (FBC) and a property tax levy collected at a reduced rate.

Unlike the regular property tax levy, which is based on assessed property value, the fire benefit charge is applied to individual properties based on: 

  • Structural improvement square footage (not based on property or land value)
  • Residential vs. commercial building use types & their evaluated risks
  • The delivery of crucial fire protection resources to structures in our service area

The FBC funding method provides property owners with a detailed, fair cost-analysis of the crucial fire protection services required for their property’s fire protection needs. The result is that homeowners pay a lower FBC rate than commercial properties do because the cost of providing fire service to commercial properties (i.e. larger structures) is higher than it is for residential properties.

The FBC is not a tax nor is it a per-call charge. The benefit fee is collected through the County with your regular property taxes.


How does a benefit charge affect your regular property taxes?

As a result of collecting a separate benefit charge, the maximum property tax collection rate is reduced under state law.

Without the FBC, the maximum property tax collection rate is $1.50/$1,000 assessed property value.

With the FBC, the 2020 property tax levy will be $0.76 per $1,000 assessed property value.

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Estimate Your FBC

Based on an Insurance Services Organization (ISO) formula for calculating “required fire flow”, the VRFA Governance Board has adopted the following formula for calculating the Fire Benefit Charge:

([ √ Total sq.ft.] * 18)(CF) * (CPG)(BF) * (1 – (Senior + Sprinkler Discount)) = FBC (“Fire Fee”)

Fire Benefit Charge assessments are determined by the “required fire flow” factor which identifies that the basic unit of measuring public fire service is through the physical delivery of water to the fire.

“Required fire flow” increases with fire load and structural risk—determined by building construction type, use type (see “Category Factors”), and square footage of improvements.

With these factors, the Insurance Services Organization (ISO) has determined the first part of the formula to produce the “required fire flow”.

The FBC factors in your property’s total square footage of improvements—or any structural square footage on property at risk for potential fire damage. Your property’s square footage data is obtained & maintained by your County Assessor’s Office (King County or Pierce County)

Improvement square footage includes:

  • All usable & livable space
  • Finished & unfinished basements
  • Attached & detached garages
  • Carports

It does not include:

  • Decks
  • Porches
  • Structures less than 400 sq. ft.

Regarding Mobile Homes: The County does not adequately maintain square feet data for mobile homes. Since the FBC formula is based upon building square footage, the VRFA Governance Board determined the most practical means was to consider the average mobile home square footage 1500 sq. ft. and apply it to each mobile home that is identified by the county tax records as a permanent structure.

Category factors (CF) help categorize building use types and also assign a weighted value to structures based on their relative “fire benefit”⁠—a.k.a. the ⁠fire protection resources needed for that specific building type (i.e., large commercial buildings = increased fire benefit charge).

  • Single Family Home = 1.0
  • Mobile Home = 0.8

If you own a multi-family property with more than four units, please call us for assistance.

  • Commercial 1 < 4,000 sq. ft. = 1.0
  • Commercial 2 < 10,000 sq. ft. = 3.0
  • Commercial 3 < 30,000 sq. ft. = 4.5
  • Commercial 4 < 100,000 sq. ft. = 6.5
  • Commercial 5 < 200,000 sq. ft. = 8.0
  • Commercial 6 > 200,000 sq. ft. = 10.0

The benefit to each category of structure is proportional to the total square footage of improvements & cost per gallon.

The VRFA used a Construction Type factor of “1” due to the variety of construction types in the Fire Authority and the inability to accurately determine the construction type for every structure from existing County database information. Therefore, since Construction Type is equal to “1”, we have not displayed this factor within the FBC formula itself.

CPG refers to the fire department’s cost per gallon of delivering necessary fire protection resources to residential and commercial structures.

  • The CPG for 2020 is set at $45.77

This final balancing factor is used as an adjustable multiplier to finely tune the FBC calculation to reach precisely the desired target FBC amount.

  • The balancing factor for 2020 is set at 0.009070561024

Senior Discount (% varies)

Senior discounts are administered by your County Assessor’s Office – you must contact them to determine your eligibility. If you are eligible for the senior discount on your property taxes, it will automatically be applied to your FBC. We use the same rules for the senior citizen discount as the County does on your property taxes. Because it is based on income, not all seniors qualify.

Commercial Sprinkler Discount (10%)

A commercial building with a full coverage sprinkler system will receive a ten percent (10%) FBC discount. Partial coverage systems are considered on a case-by-case basis but will normally be proportional to the total area of the building subject to the fire protection system.


The Impact

First approved by voters in 2006, and re-approved in 2012 and 2018, the FBC creates a stable source of revenue that continues to support the organization’s emergency response times and service levels for fire protection, medical aid calls, training of personnel, and the purchase of necessary equipment.

The improvements and investments have garnered the VRFA a better fire protection grade, which equates to lower fire insurance rates for many of our residents and businesses. By statute, revenue collected from the FBC may not exceed 60% of the total operating budget and renewal of the FBC is required every 6 years.

YEAR TOTAL FBC AMOUNT % of VRFA Operating Budget
2020 $13,800,000 49.43%
View Our Annual Reports

Appeals & Hearings

If you feel that the fire benefit charge calculated for your parcel is in error, you may appeal. The VRFA is required per RCW 52.26.250 to conduct a review board hearing for at least two weeks after a notice of the charge has been mailed to property owners.


All structural square footage figures and property use data are supplied by the King and Pierce County Assessors Offices. If you are using the County data for comparison, this will include finished & unfinished basements, attached or detached garages & carports.


A formal hearing will take place at Fire Station 31 at 5:00 PM January 30, 2020. Persons requesting a hearing on their FBC need not be present for the hearing–provided all the appropriate forms and information are submitted to the VRFA. All appeals must be received by the VRFA no later than 5:00 PM January 27, 2020. For additional information of how to appeal or review your FBC, send an us an email at