Fire Safe Council halts chipping program |

Fire Safe Council halts chipping program

At the driest and most dangerous time of the year for wildfire, the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County will suspend it’s free roadside chipping service until the state budget impasse is resolved, the group announced today.

Since August, chipping contractors have been working without pay waiting for reimbursements from state and federal funding sources, said chair of the council’s board of directors, Dennis Cassella.

“It’s the worst possible thing that could have happened,” Cassell said. “We’re not chipping piles that are now alongside roads and driveways,” Cassell said.

As many as 85 residents have piles of brush cleared from around their homes waiting for a chipper, Cassell said.

Starting next week, the council’s office manager’s hours will be reduced. Executive Director Joanne Drummond will continue to work full-time, receiving paychecks through the council’s $40,000 fund balance.

Besides delays in the state budget, federal lawmakers have not agreed on legislation for an extension of the Secure Rural School Act and payment in lieu of taxes on federal timber sales that help pay the council’s administrative staff, according to a statement from the council.

Reimbursement was requested from the State Fire Safe Council in April and have not yet been received. No time frame has been identified for appropriations.

Nevada County has agreed to assist with a temporary grant of $10,000, Drummond said.

Last year, the council received over $600,000 of grant money to create fire breaks around Grass Valley, Nevada City, North San Juan, Truckee and Washington.

The council’s chipping program is designed to help homeowners achieve the state’s required 100 foot fire safe clearance around structures. Financial assistance is also provided to seniors living on a budget who can’t physically do the work.

The Defensible Space Advisory Visit Program will continue as it is staffed by volunteers.

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