Free chipping service for county residents

   A free chipping service is available to backcountry residents who are working to reduce the danger of fires by thinning out the vegetation on their property.

   The service is being offered by the Fire Safe Council of San Diego County to 25 communities, including Ramona, San Diego Country Estates, Rancho Santa Theresa and Barona Mesa.

   The council began offering free chipping on a sporadic basis in l993, but it has been available year-round since 2007, said Tina Burnett, coordinator of the program. Since then, 336 Ramona residents have taken advantage of this no-cost service, she said.

   When the program went full time in 2007, Ramona was designated as a “priority community” by the California Fire Safe Council and the U.S. Forest Service, which provide the grants to pay the private contractors who do the work.

   “Right now the program is funded through February 2010, but we hope to be able to continue it indefinitely,” Burnett said.

   The material to be chipped needs to be stacked and prepared in a certain manner and must be free of mud, rocks, poison oak and ivy, construction wood and other debris. The chipped material is left on the site and is not hauled away.

   Burnett stressed that the program is so valuable because “creating a defensible space on your property is the best thing you can do to protect yourself during a wildfire.” Fire officials recommend clearing vegetation in a 100-foot radius around a home.

   Since Ramona does not have its own chipping program, “It’s great that they are doing this,” said Kristi Mansolf, chair of the Ramona West End Fire Safe Council. “I hope that people will see their neighbors clearing and chipping and be motivated to do it themselves.”

   To register, call 619-749-4232. More information may be found at the council’s Web site: www.firesafesdcounty.org.

   
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