Chaffee Chips helps landowners prep for wildfire, improve forest health

A countywide fire mitigation program called Chaffee Chips is helping landowners create defensible space around their homes by coordinating neighborhood slash removal and chipping services. 

Originally developed by Chaffee County Fire Rescue, the slash haul away service expanded in 2020 with support from Common Ground to increase the number of acres treated in Chaffee County.

Chaffee Chips service partners from Colorado State Forest Service load slash into a chipper during a 2020 neighborhood wildfire mitigation event.

Participating property owners clear brush and trees and pile slash near their curbs in the weeks leading up to a slash haul away event, when they work with service partners to load or chip slash that is disposed of at the Chaffee County Landfill. The landfill uses a large grinder to turn slash into chips, and residents in-turn can purchase a load of chips for $20. They also re used in landfill operations to bury trash.

Chaffee Chips‘ service locations are chosen by the Envision Forest Health Council, based on Fuel Treatment Priority areas outlined in the Community Wildfire Protection Plan. The service aligns with large fire mitigation projects being planned, funded and executed by Forest Health Council partners. The long-term goal is to treat up to 30,000 acres in the county by 2030. About a third of the acres are privately owned.

A homeowner in the Mesa Antero subdivision near Nathrop loads slash that will be hauled to the Chaffee County Landfill and chipped.

“We have a lot of mitigation work to do to reach our goals,” said Forest Health Council member J.T. Shaver, a forester with the Colorado State Forest Service. “We are going to work together as a community and as neighbors to remove vegetation and get much-needed work done.”

Additional funding for Chaffee Chips trailers was provided by a CSFS Forest Restoration and Wildfire Risk Reduction grant. The program is greatly supported by Chaffee County Fire Rescue and Colorado Firecamp staff time and expertise.

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