Chipper program expands fire reduction efforts in Placer through new staffing agreement

Published Aug. 12, 2021

The Placer County Board of Supervisors approved on Tuesday an agreement to expand funding and staffing for the Placer County Chipper Program by partnering with the Probation Department’s alternative sentencing work-release program. 

The Placer County Residential Chipper Program is a low-cost residential chipping service to help landowners manage their vegetation and meet defensible space requirements to reduce the risk of wildfire. Management of this program was transferred from Placer County to the Placer County Resource Conservation District in 2013. The cost to residents for this service is $80 per hour, with exemptions for low-income or disabled individuals.

Recently, the program has been experiencing a significant backlog. Increased education and need for defensible space has resulted in a higher demand and volume of requests for the program. Additionally, the previous staffing of the program was primarily low-risk inmates, which was paused due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

The Placer County Probation Department recently launched a new mobile work crew program in April that serves as an alternative sentencing option for those who have been convicted of a crime and sentenced to Placer County Jail. Participants can  meet their conditions of their probation while giving back to the community. 

Fire preparedness and land management is a top priority for Placer County, which makes this program a natural partnership to address the county’s most critical needs. Program partners are the Placer County Resource Conservation District, Placer County Probation Department with the support of the Office of Emergency Services.

The pilot program will begin upon final approval from the Placer RCD Board of Directors and will sunset in February 2022. The current expansion will cost $175,000 for an additional three work crews - a 430% staffing increase. The crews will remain under the supervision of Placer County Probation. 

Once the pilot program sunsets, staff will return to the board in 2022 with a report on the program and give a recommendation on whether to continue the program beyond the initial agreement period.

Residents can learn more about the chipper program here and learn more about the work release program here