Chipping Programs

The RCD’s Community Chipping Programs incentivize the creation of defensible space around homes in high wildfire risk areas. When funding is available, we offer two options for Santa Cruz County residents located in eligible geographic regions.

The first is an at-home No-Cost Chipping Program for individuals where the RCD hires a chipping company to come to your home. The second is a Neighborhood Chipping Reimbursement Program for communities with eight or more participating properties who conduct their own chipping. For either program, all chipped materials must be from cleared vegetation that originated within 100 feet of occupied structures or within 15 feet on either side of a private road. For the no-cost individual program, chips are blown back onto the property; they are not removed. See our Fire Preparedness and Prevention Resource Library for the top 10 uses for chips. All programs are dependent on grant funding and availability.

Local topography and fuels make Santa Cruz County subject to periodic wildfires, particularly in the wildand-urban interface. Combined with 100 years of effective fire suppression, these conditions have led to uncharacteristically high fuel loads.

Establishing and maintaining defensible space around your home and outbuildings, before fire-prone summer months, is imperative in avoiding major damages to your property when wildfire strikes. Defensible space is the buffer you create between buildings and the vegetation that surrounds them to prevent structures from catching fire, either from direct flame contact or radiant heat. Creating ample buffer zones not only increases the chances of your home surviving a fire on its own, but it also gives firefighters a safer location from which to defend your home. In fact, fire crews are more likely to spend time and prioritize defending your property if you have taken steps to limit fuel loads around your buildings.

Creating defensible space around your home does not mean you need a ring of bare dirt surrounding your property; with proper planning, you can have a fire safe home and a beautiful landscape. The general concept is that trees should be kept farthest from the house, shrubs can be closer, and lawns and bedding plants can be the closest. If your landscaping has a different configuration than this, you can improve defensibility by keeping larger trees limbed up and shrubs free of dead, dry material.

How do the programs work?

Both programs are offered seasonally and are dependent on available funds.

No-Cost Chipping Program. This program offers at-home chipping services to residents when funding is available. Signups are first-come-first served and each household must complete a two-part registration process to be enrolled and confirmed into the program. Part one is an online pre-registration application to verify space is available, and part two is a chipping schedule form that is completed once your materials are stacked and ready for chipping. A detailed schedule of areas served, deadlines for program applications, chipping dates and guidelines for preparing materials for chipping are posted on the seasonal chipping program instructions page when programs are active.

Neighborhood Chipping Reimbursement Program. This program offers reimbursements of eligible chipping costs of up to $250 per property and $80/ 500 linear feet of private road to communities that conduct chipping of the fuels located within the 100 feet of their occupied structures or with ten (10) feet of private roads. To be eligible, there must be a minimum of eight (8) households who participate. Sign-ups are first-come-first served by completing the reimbursement sign up when the program is open. The application will be filled out by one individual from the neighborhood followed by the request for reimbursement once chipping is completed. Reimbursement is provided to one indivudal from the neighborhood, HOA, or road association who will be responsible for managing or distrubuting funds as needed.

Who is eligible?

Most seasonal programs are available only to residents within the Wildland Urban Interface. Criteria may vary depending the RCD's funding source. Check active program links below for more detailed information.

The RCD program is currently NOT available in the Bonny Doon or South Skyline areas. Bonny Doon and South Skyline Fire Safe Councils manage their own chipping programs that are partially supported through collaborative grants administered by the RCD. Visit their respective pages for more information.

RCD Seasonal Chipping Programs

Did you know?

California Law (Public Resource Code 4291) requires that any person that owns, leases, controls, operates, or maintains a building or structure in, upon or adjoining any land covered with flammable material shall at all times maintain 100 feet of defensible space.

Conservation Goal: Protect soil, water and wildlife through actions that prevent catastrophic wildfire.

Fire Safe Council of Santa Cruz County
Bonny Doon Fire Safe Council
South Skyline Fire Safe Council
County of Santa Cruz
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE)

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE)
California Fire Safe Council
California Coastal Conservancy

Fire Preparedness and Prevention
Resource Library

Have questions or want to be added to our mailing list to get information about the chipping program or other fire prevention and preparedness information? Contact the RCD for more information.

RCD Contact: Laurel Bard

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