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March 10, 2016

Media Contact
Jim Webster, Wildfire Partners/
Boulder County Land Use
720-564-2600

Boulder County Community Chipping Reimbursement Program offers grants

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Forest Health News

Since 1993, Boulder County has funded chipping projects to help communities and homeowners reduce their wildfire risk and improve forest health. Over the last two years, 575 properties have benefited from the Boulder County Community Chipping Reimbursement Program, including many homes in the Saint Antons Highlands First Addition Homeowners Association.

A success story in St. Antons

Under the leadership of Marc McClish, St. Antons has done a fantastic job mobilizing their community members to take action to prepare for future wildfires. On May 30, 2015, the HOA held its fourth annual Community Fire Mitigation Workday. Members of the HOA and Saws and Slaws came together to help several homeowners with their wildfire mitigation projects, including Robert and Jean Williams. The William's were among the original owners in the HOA, buying three contiguous lots of almost six acres in 1970 and then building a modest home. They raised their family in this home and still keep it for family gatherings in the summer. Robert and Jean are now in their 90s and live in a retirement community in Boulder.

Robert was notified by his insurance company that he needed to mitigate his home in order to maintain his policy. Robert was concerned because he wasn’t able to do the work himself and he did not have the funds to hire someone to help him. Marc McClish suggested Robert enroll in Wildfire Partners and receive an on-site wildfire mitigation assessment as the first step toward retaining his insurance. The community would then help complete with the mitigation work on their Community Workday. Once the Williams were signed up for Wildfire Partners, Robert met with Marc and Craig Jones, the Wildfire Partners Mitigation Specialist, at the property for the assessment. There were only a few trees to be removed right around the home, but there was a very dense, mixed conifer forest surrounding the house. While not a requirement for insurance or a Wildfire Partners Certificate, Marc and Craig spoke with Robert about the benefit to his home and to the neighborhood in reducing the fuel load of his surrounding forest. Robert agreed with Craig’s recommendations and was visibly touched that the community was willing to volunteer to do the work.

On the Community Workday, four mitigation teams (about 25 people) worked at Robert and Jean’s property. One team worked in Zones 1 and 2, right around the house, removing a couple trees, limbing others, and removing brush. The other three teams were spread out across the property reducing the fuel load in an effort to lower the wildfire risk and to promote overall forest health. A tremendous amount of work was accomplished over the four hours. All the material that was removed from the forest and around the house was staged along the driveway and the road for chipping and free firewood.

Said Robert, “I was very pleased with how the community decided to come together and help out. I have done so much work to my property over the years, but I can’t do the same kind of work anymore. The fact my neighbors wanted to help me out and remove all the trees and bushes around my house meant a great deal to me. I really appreciate the effort and support this fire initiative has been in being proactive with wildfire prevention.”

Volunteers clear cut logs and slash during a wildfire mitigation project for Robert and Jean Williams.

Volunteers clear cut logs and slash during a wildfire mitigation project for Robert and Jean Williams.

The Community Workday was
followed by the HOAs Annual Curbside Chipping Event. In 2015, 64
properties took part in this event. High Timber Firewood and Logging
came by and chipped and hauled all the slash at the William’s property
and throughout the community. The HOA received $4,000 from the county’s
chipping program to help fund this work. According to Marc, “Over the
past four years, St Antons Community Wildfire Mitigation Workdays have
been wildly successful both in terms of the amount of mitigation work
that has been accomplished and the strengthening of community
relationships that have been built. Without a doubt, this neighborhood
is becoming more prepared for wildfire every year and the feeling of
community grows with every event.”

 Slash and logs sit by the side of the road, ready to be chipped.

Slash and logs sit by the side of the road, ready to be chipped.

Now,
this community has been extended to future generations as Robert’s
grandson, Will, is continuing the wildfire mitigation work. A wildland
firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service in 2012, Will knows the
importance of preparing for wildfire.

Said
Will, “When I began working for the U.S. Forest Service, I realized how
important wildfires are to the health of our forest, but also how hard
it can be to communities that are intermixed in these landscapes. Fire
crews do all they can to assist homeowners in protecting their property,
but it is so important that homeowners have an understanding of the
power these wildfires and their role in helping protect their own
communities and property. It requires a lot of work to take the steps in
preparing your house for the case of a wildfire, but seeing how my
grandfather’s neighbors came together to help him was inspiring and
encouraging.”

Who can apply?

Communities, community organizations, incorporated towns, homeowner associations, and fire protection districts are eligible to apply to the Community Chipping Reimbursement Program. Subject to prior approval, the County will reimburse up to 50% of direct costs up to a maximum of $4,000 per community. If your community would like to be considered for funding, please view the program overview, requirements, and eligibility requirements.

Applications for the 2016 chipping program are available at bouldercounty.gov; applications are due March 22nd.

Saint Antons homeowner Robert Williams pictured with his grandson, Will Baker.

Saint Antons homeowner Robert Williams pictured with his grandson, Will Baker.

It
requires a lot of work to take the steps in preparing your house for
wildfires, but seeing how my grandfather’s neighbors came together to
help him was inspiring and encouraging
,” said Will.

Thanks to the AWESOME volunteer crew!

Thanks to the AWESOME volunteer crew!