Winter storms over the past several months have resulted in large amounts of downed branches and trees around homes and roads throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains. The rains may also promote significant new vegetation growth this Spring. While we are currently experiencing very wet conditions, as we get into summer, the smaller diameter storm debris could quickly turn into wildfire fuel if not properly managed.
This program incentivizes the clean-up of flammable material and the creation of defensible space around homes in high wildfire risk areas by offering no-cost chipping for residents who trim vegetation within 100 feet of occupied structures or 10 feet on either side of a private road and stack downed wood. “We mostly want to clear the potentially flammable material near our roads and around our houses and create space between the ground and lower tree branches called ladder fuels” explained Laurel Bard, who manages the chipping program for the RCD. “However, we want to be mindful of not over clearing or leaving bare ground, which can lead to overly dry soils in the summer and serious soil erosion in the winter.”
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, 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 map of areas served, deadlines for program applications, chipping dates and guidelines for preparing materials for chipping are posted on the RCD Spring No-Cost Chipping Program page at RCD Spring No-Cost Chipping Program page.
For more information email Laurel Bard at the RCD.