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Free slash-removal program helps property owners create defensible space to protect homes from wildfire
Contacts:Dan Schroder, Director, Summit County CSU Extension970-668-4140; firstname.lastname@example.orgCommissioner Dan Gibbs, Chair, Summit County Wildfire Council970-333-4707; email@example.com
SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit County government is kicking off the 2016 Summit County Chipping Program on June 27. The free, award-winning program, now in its third year, helps property owners create defensible space by providing free chipping and disposal of tree branches, logs and small trees that elevate wildfire risk around homes.
From late June through the end of September, chipping crews will travel throughout each residential neighborhood in Summit County. Property owners can clear trees and branches from around their homes and stack the material in slash piles near the road on their neighborhood’s designated chipping week. Crews will chip the material and haul it away at no charge.
“Fire is a natural part of our environment in Summit County, and we have to adapt to that risk by creating defensible space around our homes,” said Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, who chairs the Summit County Wildfire Council. “The chipping program makes it easier and more affordable for residents and property owners to take action.”
Defensible space is an area around a home where trees, shrubs and other vegetation 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. Local fire districts offer free defensible-space assessments for residents and property owners.
The Summit County Chipping Program is available to all county residents and property owners. Each neighborhood in Summit County will have two separate weeks during which residents may set out slash piles for chipping and removal. On June 27, crews will begin chipping and removing slash in Frisco, Copper Mountain and the southernmost neighborhoods of unincorporated Summit County. Detailed schedules and maps, broken down by neighborhood, are available online at www.SummitCountyCO.gov/chipping.
The 2016 Summit County Chipping Program is funded in part through a $50,000 grant from the Colorado Division of Natural Resources, through the agency’s Wildfire Risk Reduction Grant Program. Summit County is matching the grant with funding from a countywide property tax approved by voters in 2008.
“We’re grateful that the state and Summit County citizens are helping us make this program possible once again,” said Dan Schroder, director of Summit County CSU Extension. “During the past two years, we found that there was an unbelievable demand for this service, so we’re excited to be able to continue it in 2016.”
Last summer, 1,973 households participated in the program, setting out 5,254 slash piles. Climax Mine purchased the resulting chips for land and watershed reclamation. In March, 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.
“Wildland fire continues to be a major threat to communities and fire departments across the U.S.,” said Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr, IAFC president and chair of the board. “The IAFC commends the 2016 Wildfire Mitigation Award winners for everything they have done to mitigate wildland fire in their communities and inspire others to do the same.”
The Summit County Chipping Program accepts trees, logs and tree branches up to 9 inches in diameter, free of nails, wire and rope. Chipping crews will not accept shrubs, willows, construction materials, treated lumber, fence posts, root wads, stumps, weeds, bagged materials, grass clippings or trash.
Slash piles must be stacked by 8 a.m. on the Monday of the neighborhood’s designated chipping week. Piles must be stacked neatly within 5 feet of the roadway. The maximum pile size is 5 feet high, 5 feet wide and 5 feet deep. There is no limit to the number of piles a property owner may set out. Residents who plan to put out 10 or more piles are asked to notify Summit County CSU Extension by calling 970-668-4139 prior to their neighborhood’s chipping week.
Piles may not be combined with neighbors' piles or placed in other neighborhoods. To keep chips for mulch or other purposes, participating residents may tie a red ribbon or flagging in a prominent spot on the pile.
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 970-668-4139.