Free curbside debris chipping available
County program offers up to three hours work
It’s fire season again; time to clip, trim and saw trees, bushes and other flammable vegetation around the house. If getting rid of the cuttings is keeping you from doing this necessary work, the county has a plan to help. You can get up to three hours of curbside wood chipping for free by making an appointment with the Vegetation Management Service, a department of Permit Sonoma’s Fire Prevention Division.
The program is specifically designed for property owners in the unincorporated areas to expand defensible space around occupied homes and approaches to the homes, which makes it safer for residents to evacuate and firefighters to get to the structures. It is for parcels of five acres or less.
There are guidelines to meet and paperwork involved to qualify for the program.
First, you’ll need to fill out a one-page application, which you can do online at Permit Sonoma. You can also get one by calling 565-6070 or sending an email to Chipper@sonoma.county.org.
The three-hour limit is based on the observations that a pile 50 feet long and four feet tall and approximately eight feet wide can be completed in about three hours. The crew may opt to return at a later date or ask that the remaining material be chipped at the applicant’s expense.
Be careful with what goes into your pile. Your chip pile will be evaluated by the crew and may be rejected if it doesn’t meet the guidelines.
The chipper can handle material up to four inches in diameter and up to 10 feet long. Freshly cut and stacked materials chip much better than old dry wood. If your piles have been in place for a long time and/or contain a lot of old dry material, the crews may not be able to chip them.
What isn’t allowed is important, too: no nails, wires, or any metal pieces, no roots or stumps, no poison oak, no oleander, no poisonous species or other vines, no spiny plants, roses or blackberries, no Scotch/French broom or gorse, no construction-type wood such as fence posts or 2x4s, no rocks, dirt and mud, no rakings or piles of needles, leaves or grass.
According to the county website, “Piles not meeting the guidelines or containing material not approved will be denied service unless the applicant corrects the noted issues. Once an application is received it will be inspected for compliance. If the piles are not ready by the time of the inspection the application will be denied or postponed.”
Piles must be put where crews can work safely without need for flag people, signage or road closure permits. Since the chipper cannot go up very steep slopes, they can’t access piles that are not next to an accessible road or driveway.
• Do not place piles where they might block roadways or access.
• Do not put piles within 10 feet of power poles.
• The chipper and truck must be able to get to a place they can turn around.
• Place piles within five feet of chipper access, preferably on the uphill side of road or driveway.
If the chipper cannot access your piles, you will be responsible for disposing of your piles.