Santa Cruz County is likely to experience greater than normal wildfire risk due to less than average rainfall creating extra dry conditions. This program incentivizes the creation of defensible space around homes in high wildfire risk areas by offering no-cost chipping for residents who clear vegetation within 100 feet of occupied structures or 10 feet on either side of a private road. “Now more than ever we need to be diligent about the landscape immediately next to our homes,” explained Angie Richman, who manages the chipping program for the RCD. “By offsetting some of the cost we hope more people will be able to reduce wildfire hazards around their properties and neighborhoods.”
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.
Having defensible space 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 does the program work?
Signups are first-come-first served by region 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 scheduling 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 RCD No-Cost Chipping Program page.
For more information email Angie Richman at the RCD.