Summit County receives $100,000 grant for wildfire mitigation efforts | SummitDaily.com

Summit County receives $100,000 grant for wildfire mitigation efforts

Alli Langley
alangley@summitdaily.com

Got slash? In two months this summer, Summit County property owners put out enough wood for the county's chipping program to fill 24 semitrucks.

That program, a free slash-removal service aimed at helping residents protect their homes and properties from wildfire, just received a $100,000 grant from the Colorado Wildfire Risk Reduction Grant Program to increase its efforts next summer.

Summit County was one of 37 wildfire mitigation projects statewide chosen to receive funding in the current round of grants after the county offered the slash-removal program for the first time this year.

Chipping crews have been circulating throughout the county since late June and have about two more weeks of work remaining at the northern end of the county.

This summer, 1,500 property owners and residents put out 4,000 piles of slash of all sizes, said Dan Schroder, Summit County CSU Extension director.

Between June 30 to Aug. 1, that wood amounted to 485 tons of chips, which were taken to the biomass plant in Gypsum to produce 485 megawatts of electricity, he said. That doesn't include the chips collected from the Dillon, Keystone and Montezuma areas, which the county has yet to send to the plant.

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"The whole name of this game is personal responsibility and community connectivity," Schroder said, describing neighbors encouraging one another to create slash piles. "This sense of shared responsibility is critical to increasing our resilience to wildfire."

This year's work was supported by a smaller grant of $62,500 from the Wildfire Risk Reduction Program. Summit County matched the state grant with direct funding and in-kind contributions.

The county will match the state grant again in 2015, with $50,000 from a voter-approved tax that supports wildfire mitigation projects and $50,000 of in-kind labor and other contributions.

This summer, crews passed through the county twice over 16 weeks to give second-home owners and other visiting property owners more opportunity to create slash piles in time for the chipping trucks. Next summer, Schroder said the crews will do one pass over a 12-week period and will break the county into smaller areas.

In the meantime, property owners can collaborate with neighbors and make plans for next year's defensible space projects, so that they can take full advantage of the chipping program.

"Look for us in the core of next summer," he said, and start thinking about and planning defensible space now.

For more information about the Summit County Chipping Program, including neighborhood chipping schedules and materials and pile guidelines, visit co.summit.co.us/chippingprogram or contact the Colorado State University Extension office in Summit County at (970) 668-4140.