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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 Extension: 970-668-4140Commissioner Dan Gibbs, Chair, Summit County Wildfire Council: 970-333-4707SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit County government is kicking off the 2018 Summit County Chipping Program on Monday, June 25. The free, award-winning program, now in its fifth 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. Residents and 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.“Last summer's fires were sobering reminders that we live in the wildland-urban interface, and that every home in Summit County should have defensible space. In this environment, we're always one unattended campfire away from a major wildfire,” said Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, who chairs the Summit County Wildfire Council. “We've seen tremendous participation in the Chipping Program in past years, and we encourage residents and property owners to continue to take advantage of this free service.”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. Summit Fire & EMS and Red, White and 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 will have two separate weeks during which residents may set out slash piles for chipping and removal. On June 25, crews will begin chipping and removing slash in Frisco, Copper Mountain and the area south of the Town of Blue River. Detailed schedules, broken down by neighborhood, are available online at www.SummitCountyCO.gov/chipping."It's important to take a look at the schedule now and mark your calendar, so you can plan ahead for any limbing or tree removal," Commissioner Gibbs 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 2018 Summit County Chipping Program is funded through a countywide property tax approved by voters in 2008. During the program’s first four years, 7,958 households participated in the program, setting out 25,418 slash piles, resulting in 21,300 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 shrubs, willows, cottonwood, 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 so that chipping crews can identify pile locations and plan their routes for that 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. Piles that do not comply with program guidelines will not be chipped or collected.There is no limit to the number of piles a property owner may set out. Residents who plan to put out 20 or more piles are asked to notify Summit County CSU Extension by calling 970-668-4140 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 970-668-4140.