If you’ve ever seen the movie Fargo, there is probably one scene that left an indelible and unforgettable impression on you.  (For those who haven’t seen it — warning, spoiler alert!).  At the end of the movie, our fearless heroine, Marge, the local police chief, catches the criminal red-handed (literally red-handed with blood), feeding body parts into a chipper.  Well, up until we moved to our Nederland home, this was my only exposure to what a chipper is, or what it does.

Today, I got to witness a team of people using a very large chipper courtesy of a curbside chipping program our neighborhood takes part in.  For the last three years, our HOA has received grant funding from Boulder County to pay for a this chipping program.  And it is a huge help to the people who live here in terms of wildfire mitigation.

IMG_1741[1]After the last five years of history-making wildfires in Colorado that have destroyed hundreds of home, anyone who lives in the mountains is aware of the dangers of wildfires.  So fire mitigation is an ongoing process that everyone is constantly working on.  Insurance companies have become much stricter in terms of what they require to insure  mountain homes as well – with many residents being told they must remove trees and brush or they will not get insured at all.

But once you cut the trees, limb them, or remove brush — what can you do with it?  If you have larger logs, you can either hold onto them for winter firewood, or give them to your neighbors.  But then there’s all the small stuff.  For what is deemed “slash” — timber that is 6 inches or less in diameter — most people haul it to the local Nederland sort yard.  The sort yard is managed by the county, and allows residents to leave their slash, where they will later chip it.  But to haul slash, you either have to have a large pickup truck or a trailer, and it can take many, many trips, and several days to do this.  I know this, because the previous owner to our house was so kind as to leave us three very large piles of slash when we bought our house.  We were fortunate enough to borrow a “schlepper” truck from a neighbor, and spent the entire weekend, loading and hauling slash to get rid of those piles.

IMG_1763[1]Enter the curbside chipping program.  The program is a godsend for us —  all we have to do is drag our slash up to the road and pile it on the perimeter of our property that borders the road.  We don’t have to borrow a truck, load it into a truck, or haul it anywhere.  Every summer, a set date, usually in mid to late June is designated as the “chipper day”, and all the slash we have along the road is loaded and chipped by a humongous chipper machine.  Today, for the first time, I got to witness the crew who does this and how that chipper works.  It is amazing, it takes large trees, that are 10-15 feet long and turns them into what looks like sawdust in just a few seconds.

I’ve always heard that to be really effective, wildfire mitigation needs to be a community effort.  The curbside chipping program is a huge help in providing a service that makes that mitigation a lot more manageable and accessible for us and our neighbors.