logo: Santa Clara County FireSafe Council
logo: Santa Clara County FireSafe Council
Mobilizing the people of Santa Clara County to protect their homes, communities and environment from wildfires

Mobilizing the people of Santa Clara County to protect their homes, communities and environment from wildfires

Defensible Space Chipping Program


Chipping PileThe 2019 Chipping Program has concluded. Please check back in February for the 2020 Chipping Program Schedule.

Chipping Program Limitations:

Eligible properties:

  • Property must be located in Wildland-Urban Interface areas (foothills and mountains). We do not provide chipping in urban areas.
  • Property must be in a Wildfire Hazard Zone.
  • Property must have a house on it. We do not provide chipping to clear empty lots or undeveloped land. If your house is near your property line and you want to clear defensible space on your neighbor's parcel, contact us if you would like assistance in requesting permission.
  • Properties with extremely steep or narrow or dirt driveways may not be eligible. Chipping can only be done along a road or driveway with sufficient access and space for a truck and chipper to safely turn around, and park safely to perform the chipping without creating a hazard or blocking others. You may have to bring your material to a community chipping pile location. Contact us if you have questions.

Material limitations:

  • Our free chipping program only serves material removed to create defensible space within 100 feet of structures (up to 200' on downhill side) and to provide safe fire engine ingress and evacuation egress by clearing hazardous fuels from within 30 feet of and 14 feet over your driveway or roadside.
  • Small piles are extremely expensive to chip per unit volume, so consider putting small amounts in your regular yard waste containers to be disposed of by your waste removal company. Piles should be too large to fit in your yard-waste containers over a 4 week period (and usually it takes 3 weeks between when you prepare your pile and our chipper can get to it, so keep that in mind.)
  • We cannot provide free chipping for extremely large piles due to grant limitations. If you are clearing years of overgrowth to create defensible space on your property and generate large amounts of material, we can provide a cost-sharing agreement to subsidize your total chipping costs. Contact us for information if your piles measure more than 4x8x60.
  • No pieces over 80 pounds or more than 12" in diameter. One person should be able to lift each piece and it needs to fit into the chipper opening. Contact us if you need to dispose of old firewood piles or large windthrown or dead trees.
  • NO timber harvest debris, or agricultural prunings from orchards or vineyards. NO tractor or loader stacked piles that contain dirt and are difficult to pull apart by hand.
  • NO piles of leaves, pine needles, thistles, and weedy yard clippings. Chipping piles should be woody debris from trees and shrubs.
  • NO painted wood, pressure treated wood, plywood or OSB, no nails, screws, wire, trash, etc.
  • NO roots, stumps, rocks, mud, blackberry vines, palm fronds, cactus, and bamboo. Also, NO poison oak or broom with seeds. See below.

How to, and how not to, stack your piles:

  • Piles to be chipped must be hand stacked. We cannot chip tractor or front loader stacked piles. Chipping can only be done along a road or driveway with sufficient access and space for a truck and chipper to turn around.
  • Don't stack piles within your defensible space. If our chipping service is delayed you don't want dry brush right next to your home during fire season.
  • Piles must be stacked by hand with all cut ends facing the same direction toward the access route. Forked branches should be cut at forks so they can fit in the chute.
  • Piles must be within 5 feet of a local road or driveway, and preferrably on the uphill side. If you need to stack below the road, contact us for instructions.
  • Please do not stack on high-speed roads/highways, chipper crews do not set up traffic control. If they can't safely park to perform the chipping the pile will not be chipped.
  • Do not hide poison oak in your chipping pile. Chipping poison oak will spray oils in the air and can cause terrible rashes and injury to workers. The chips can also cause a rash to people and pets who walk on them. If you need to remove poison oak keep it separate from the rest of your piles and contact us. Some contractors can haul it off.
  • If you need to remove Scotch or French broom, it should be cut or pulled prior to the flowers setting seed. Broom with intact seed heads creates chips that cannot be broadcast as mulch unless disposed of exactly where previously seed producing plants were growing. The seeds need to be kept within the area of infestation. Contact us if you have seedy broom in your pile so we can prevent its spread around your property or the county.
  • If you start to build your pile in winter or early spring, there is a possibility birds will build a nest in it. Take some time to look at your pile and watch for birds flying into or out of the pile. Let us know if you suspect a nest.
  • All material chipped will be blown back onto the property. The chips can be used for mulch. If you need to have chips hauled off, contact us for information.

Contact Us

Santa Clara County FireSafe Council

14380 Saratoga Avenue
Saratoga, CA 95070-5953
Telephone: (408) 975-9591

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