State forestry officials for the first time are preparing to give counties some of the money raised through a controversial assessment on property owners in wildfire-prone areas.

It will be awarded as part of a one-time grant process after lawmakers included a $10 million appropriation in the state budget for the coming fiscal year.

The rest of the money that is supposed to be returned to counties is being held in savings while a lawsuit challenges the legality of the so-called "fire fee."

The Department of Forestry and Fire Protection says spending the money for fire-prevention efforts will be a top priority.

California's prolonged drought has produced dangerous summer fire conditions.

The department cannot yet say when the grants might be awarded or what programs will be funded.

-- The Associated Press