Spring No-Cost Chipping [CLOSED]

The RCD Spring Chipping Program closed to applicants on April 30. Those who have applied can expect chipping services between May 2 and May 31 due to high program participation.

You stack it, we chip it! This program offers no-cost chipping to eligible Santa Cruz County residents for material in the defensible space zone. Residents are allowed up to 3* piles per household and 1 pile per 500 linear feet of private road. To be notified when chipping registration opens each year, please subscribe to our newsletter at the bottom of the page. To see if you are eligibible for the program, check the map below.

*For Spring 2023 we are offering 4 piles per household due to winter storm debris.

2023 Spring pre-registration opens on March 25 to recognized FireWise USA Communities. Pre-registration begins for all eligible Santa Cruz County residents on April 1st and runs through April 30th.

Piles must be ready for chipping and the required step 2 Chipping Schedule Form submitted NO LATER than April 30.

Chipping takes place between May 8th and May 19th.

Due to high program demand, chipping will take place between May 2nd and May 31st.

Due to the excessive amount of tree debris from the 2023 winter storms, all participants can have up to FOUR piles (normally three) for this season chipping program.

Spring 2023 Chipping Webinar Slides

Spring Chipping Webinar (for a detailed description of the program)

Who is eligible?

Chipping services are available for Santa Cruz County residential properties with occupied structures that are within the Wildland Urban Interface (see map). Residents of Bonny Doon and South Skyline areas of Santa Cruz County are not currenlty eligible and should sign up for chipping services through their local Fire Safe Council. This program only chips materials that originated with 100 feet of an occupied structure or within 10 feet on either side of a private road. Please note, if you have gated access, you MUST provide a gate code or location of a key.

Property owners impacted by the CZU Fire who lost their home may participate in the program if:

  1. Your new home will be rebuilt before the end of the 2023 fire season OR
  2. You are currently living on the property in a temporary dwelling (mobile home, RV, etc) as your primary residence and will be there through the 2023 fire season OR
  3. Vegetation on your property is within 100 feet of a neighbor’s occupied home.

How do I sign up for the chipping program?

Signups are first-come-first served and residents must complete a two-part registration process to be enrolled and confirmed into the program. Part one is an online pre-registration application to reserve a spot and verify that space is available, and part two is a chipping schedule form that you will complete once your materials are stacked and ready for chipping. Submittal of the chipping schedule form will add your property to the contractors list of properties to receive chipping which will take place between May 8 and May 19. PLEASE NOTE: We can not arrange specific dates for chipping.

STEP 1. Find your property on the chipping map.

STEP 2. Apply to the Program. Complete the Chipping Program instruction tutorial then fill out the online pre-registration application (link provided at the end of the tutorial) by April 30th. NO LATE APPLICATIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED. Immediately check your email to confirm space is available (check your junk mail). SAVE YOUR CONFIRMATION EMAIL. It contains a link to complete your registration once your piles are prepared. If you are also applying for chipping along a private road, coordinate with your neighbors so that just one person includes the road in their own application.

STEP 3. Prepare material to be chipped. Complete defensible space clearing (take before and after photos) and prepare piles in accordance with the pdfchipping checklist.

STEP 4. Complete the Chipping Schedule Form by April 30th. A link to this form will be emailed to you upon completion of the pre-registration application. Make sure to submit this form or you WILL NOT be added to the schedule for chipping. NO LATE FORMS WILL BE ACCEPTED.

Piles will be chipped between May 8 and May 19. We are unable to schedule indivudal dates.

Find your property to confirm you are within the RCD program boundaries.

To locate your property, type your address in the search box on the upper right-hand section of the map and choose your address from the options given OR hit the search button (magnifying glass). This will zoom the map to your property. Alternately, using your mouse and the plus or minus buttons on the upper left, navigate and zoom into your property location. Click on the colored region where your property is located to make sure you are eligible for the RCD's program. Links are provided directly to other local programs where available.

You can use zoom in/ out tools in the left corner of the map to adjust the map scale.

Complete the program requirements tutorial and pre-registration application

Using your mouse, click through the slides below. You will learn about the program, what your responsibilities are, and program deadlines. This process will take 5 to 10 minutes.

  • 1/13


    The goal of the chipping program is to assist residents in creating defensible space around their homes and private roads. It is essential for improving your home’s chance of surviving a wildfire and your ability to get out safely.

    Defensible space is the buffer you create between a building on your property and the grass, trees, shrubs, or any wildland areas that surround it. This space is needed to slow or stop the spread of wildfire and it helps protect your home from catching fire—either from direct flame contact or radiant heat. It is also important for protecting the firefighters and first responders who are performing rescues and saving homes.

    This tutorial will walk you through the steps to participate in the program.

  • 2/13

    Pre-register to reserve a space for the program

    At the end of this tutorial you will be directed to a link to complete the online pre-registration application. Each participating property must complete their own application. If you are also applying for chipping along a private road, coordinate with your neighbors so that just one person includes the road in their own application.

    One email address can only reserve a spot for one property. You will immediately receive an email confirming that your application was accepted or if you were added to the waitlist. The confirmation email will include a chipping checklist and further instructions. Make sure to check your junk mail if you don’t get a confirmation. SAVE THIS EMAIL. It will have a unique link for your to confirm that your piles have been prepared and to add your property to the chipping schedule.

    Please note, applications close April 30.

  • 3/13

    Complete clearing and prepare piles

    Safety. When creating defensible space, be aware that new hazards can arise if measures are not taken to protect bare soil and slopes from erosion. Be conscious of high voltage power lines on or near your property. Be fire safe when using motorized equipment to clear defensible space. Work early during the day with lower temperatures and higher humidity. All motorized equipment should have spark arrestors.

  • 4/13

    Complete clearing and prepare piles

    Nesting Birds. Visually inspect the tree, branch or shrub for signs of nests or nesting activity before cutting. If you find a nest, do not do any cutting within at least 50’ of the nest until the chick has fledged. Do not attempt to move or disturb the nest.

    It is unlawful to needlessly destroy the nest of any nesting bird – CDFW Code 3503.

  • 5/13

    Complete clearing and prepare piles

    This Program can only chip materials that originated within 100 feet of occupied structures or within 10 feet on either side of a private road. Visit the Fire Safe Council of Santa Cruz County for more information on defensible space and home hardening tips.

    Please take at least one before and one after photo of the clearing work. Both photos should be taken from the same location. These will be uploaded when you complete the chipping schedule form. Alternately you can take a photo of your piles, but the other is preferred.

  • 6/13

    Complete clearing and prepare piles

    Piles CAN include:

    • Tree limbs up to 8 inches in diameter and 10 feet long (don't cut into shorter branches because the longer branches are easier to chip).
    • Side branches up to 4 feet (trim side branches greater that 4 feet wide)
    • Vegetation cleared from within 100 feet of a home or 10 feet on either side of a private road.
    • Piles MUST be hand stacked.
    • Cut ends should all face the same direction toward the road and on the uphill side of sloped roads.
  • 7/13

    Complete clearing and prepare piles

    Piles CAN NOT include:

    • Timber harvest debris, or vineyard and orchard waste.
    • Poison oak, ivy or blackberry vines.
    • Broom or acacia with seed pods, or other invasive materials.
    • Non-compostable materials (painted or treated lumber, trash, metal wire, etc.)
    • Palm fronds, roots, stumps, rocks or mud.

    NO LOOSE DOGS OR LOCKED GATES (unless gate codes or keys are provided).

  • 8/13

    Complete clearing and prepare piles

    For Spring 2023 only, each property is allowed up to FOUR* (usually three) piles at 8 x 4 x 10 feet each (depth is dependent on length of branches). Each private road is allowed 1 pile per 500 linear feet of road. Piles must be hand stacked. Cut ends should all face the same direction toward the road and on the uphill side of sloped roads.

    *The extra pile for Spring 2023 is due to the excessive volume of wood debris from this year's winter storms.

  • 9/13

    Complete clearing and prepare piles

    Pile locations must be accessible to a large box truck and chipper trailer. Extremely narrow or steep driveways may not be serviceable.

    Piles must be located within 5 feet of chipper access location.

    Chipper access must be along established roads in good condition. Unpaved roads can not be wet at time of chipping service.

    NO locked gates or loose dogs.

  • 10/13

    Complete clearing and prepare piles

    Chips will be blown back onto your property. Place piles in an area where you want the chips. Check the RCD resources library for the top 10 uses for chips.

    Make sure your street address is visible and that piles are clearly marked with your street number. Mark road piles with your road name.

    Remember. N0 locked gates or loose dogs.

  • 11/13

    Schedule chipping

    Once your piles are ready for chipping, you must complete the chipping schedule form to ensure that YOUR address/road name is provided to the chipping contractor. A unique link to this form is provided when you complete your pre-registration application. The deadline for completing this form is April 30th for all applicants.

    Chipping will begin May 8. If you do not want your piles sitting for too long, we recommend preparing them as close as possible to the April 30th deadline.

    We can ONLY provide a 10 day window for chipping due to the number of properties we are servicing. No indivdual dates can be scheduled.


  • 12/13

    Schedule Chipping

    Data needed for the form:

    1. A minimum of one representative before photo and one after photo of the clearing you completed taken from the same location (preferable) OR a photo of the piles.

    2. How many piles and the average measurements in feet (length x height x depth) of the piles.

    3. The number of hours and date range that you spent clearing and preparing your piles OR the dollar amount you paid a third party to do this work (this is used as in-kind match and is critical for us to secure funding for chipping).

    4. Any special instructions for entry to your property (gate codes or key access, directions if you property of not properly mapped on google, etc). These instruction are provided to the contractor. Please note, that the contractor CANNOT call prior to their arrival, so please don't ask.

  • 13/13

    Schedule chipping

    You will receive email confirmation that your property has been added to the chipping schedule.

    Contractors may do a quick drive-by assessment prior to chipping to check for access issues or other concerns.

    If you do not have access to camera to take digital photos, please contact the RCD for assistance.

    Complete your application on the next slide ->

  • Complete Your Application

    Registration opens for FireWise communities on March 25th (PW available from your FireWise leader).
    General registration opens April 1st.

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