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Free program helps residents and property owners create defensible space to protect homes from wildfire
Contact: Dan Schroder, Summit County CSU Extension: 970-668-4140
SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit County is kicking off the 2019 Summit County Chipping Program on Monday, June 17. The free, award-winning program, now in its sixth year, helps residents and property owners create defensible space by providing free chipping and disposal of trees and tree branches that elevate wildfire risk around homes.
From mid-June through early October, chipping crews will travel throughout each residential neighborhood in Summit County. Residents and property owners can clear trees and branches from around their homes and stack the material in piles near the road on their neighborhood’s designated chipping week. Crews will chip the material and haul it away at no charge.
“Over the past few years, we've seen how very real the threat of wildfire is in Summit County,” Commissioner Thomas Davidson said. “And through the remarkable levels of participation in the Chipping Program, we've also seen that our community takes defensible space very seriously. We hope that level of enthusiasm continues this year. Chip, baby, chip!”
Defensible space is an area around a home where trees, shrubs and other flammable materials are cleared or reduced to slow the spread of wildfire toward the building. Defensible space creates a safe zone for firefighters to carry out their work, and it reduces the chance that a structure fire will move to the surrounding forest. Summit Fire & EMS and Red, White & Blue Fire both offer free defensible-space assessments of properties in their districts.
The Summit County Chipping Program is available to all county residents and property owners. Each neighborhood in Summit County has one designated week during which households may set out piles of trees and branches for chipping and removal. On June 17, crews will begin chipping and removing piles in downtown Silverthorne (west of Highway 9), Mesa Cortina and Wildernest. Detailed schedules, broken down by neighborhood, are available online at www.SummitCountyCO.gov/chipping.
"We encourage everyone to take a look at the schedule now and mark your calendar, so you can plan accordingly," Summit County CSU Extension Director Dan Schroder said. "The Chipping Program can significantly reduce the time and money a property owner invests in a defensible space project, so you don't want to miss your window of opportunity."
The Summit County Chipping Program is funded through a countywide property tax approved by voters in 2008. During the program’s first five years, 11,388 households participated in the program, setting out 37,433 slash piles, resulting in 25,720 cubic yards of woody material. Climax Mine has used a majority of the chips for land and watershed reclamation.
In 2016, Summit County received a Wildfire Mitigation Innovation Award for the Chipping Program from a coalition comprised of the National Association of State Foresters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Forest Service. Established in 2014, the Wildfire Mitigation Awards are the highest commendation in the United States for innovation and leadership by individuals and organizations committed to wildfire preparedness and mitigation.
The Summit County Chipping Program accepts trees, logs and tree branches up to 12 inches in diameter, free of nails, wire and rope. Chipping crews will not accept willows or cottonwood because they have high moisture content, helping to slow the spread of wildfire; they also clog chipping equipment because they are very fibrous. Other materials not accepted include shrubs, construction materials, fence posts, root wads, stumps, weeds, bagged materials, grass clippings and trash.
Piles must be stacked by 8 a.m. on the Monday of a neighborhood’s designated chipping week so that crews can identify pile locations and plan their routes for that week. Piles must be stacked neatly within 5 feet of the roadway, with the large ends of trunks and branches facing the road. The maximum pile size is 5 feet high by 5 feet wide. The maximum length of individual trunks and branches is 10 feet. Piles that do not comply with the program guidelines will not be chipped or collected.
Piles may not be combined with neighbors' piles or placed in other neighborhoods. The maximum number of piles per household is 10. For larger-scale defensible space projects, property owners are encouraged to call Summit County CSU Extension at 970-668-4140 to inquire about a Hazardous Fuels Reduction Grant or to visit www.SummitCountyCO.gov/wildfiregrants.
For more information about the Summit County Chipping Program, including neighborhood chipping schedules, materials guidelines and pile guidelines, visit www.SummitCountyCO.gov/chipping, or contact the Colorado State University Extension office in Summit County at 970-668-4140.