The Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority (MWPA) approved FIRESafe MARIN's (FSM) request for $500,000 to conduct a curbside pickup chipping program for residents of Marin County. Our proposal stated that we would provide one pick up service for each Firewise Site and provide two additional days of service to each of the 17 agencies that constitute the MWPA. The intent of the additional service is to more equitably distribute the program throughout the county and to allow the participating agencies to determine areas of need within their jurisdiction.
There are approximately 20,000 residences within Marin's 70 Firewise communities. Based on FSM's past experience managing chipper programs, we estimate that approximately 10% of homes in a given community will participate in a curbside chipping program. One contracted chipping crew is able to pick up, chip and dispose of qualified vegetation from approximately 30 homes per day. Our budget allows us to provide one time curb service to approximately 2000 residences (10% of Firewise Sites) utilizing two contracted crews making 30 pickups each per day. In addition, our budget enables us to provide two crew days – each making 30 stops – to each of the 17 MWPA member agencies. Assuming a 10% participation rate, this allows us to service 500-600 non-Firewise homes in each of the 17 agencies.
Our chipper program started on Monday, July 6 and will end in late-September. Generally speaking, there are two crews working per day on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of each week. In some cases we schedule additional work on a Friday to address unanticipated problems that may have come up earlier in the week. Unfortunately, given the late start date and high demand, we do not have flexibility to change dates.
Residents must register for the program through an online portal chipperday.com/marin. Registration is simple and the web page includes directions, guidelines and a short instructional video on how to properly select and place vegetation for curbside pickup. Unregistered piles will not be picked up. Our software optimizes route maps for the contractors, tracks their progress, allows them to enter both a photo and an estimate of material, and produces reports on the amount of material processed, number of stops, addresses served etc. The software allows up to 30 residences to register for each chipper “event” which is defined as the number of homes that one chipping crew can manage in one day. Approximately 250-350 homes will be geographically grouped to create a chipper event. Most dates will have two crews working allowing two events per day for a total of 60 pickups. There may be days when two events are combined for registration if it is a large or contiguous geographical area. Registration is open 14 calendar days before the date of the chipper event. Registration is on a first come first served basis. Registrations in excess of the daily allotment will automatically be placed on a wait list. Residences on the waitlist will be scheduled for pickup only if there is a cancellation. There is not sufficient funding for us to guarantee service to every resident of Marin nor for every resident of a given Firewise site.
In order to stay within our allotted budget, we are forced to place a limitation on the amount and type of material. These limitations will be strictly enforced. If a pile exceeds our limit of 4x10x4 (6 cubic yards), we will pick up the first 6 cubic yards, but the resident will be responsible for disposal of the remainder of the material. We also have some restrictions on the type of material we can accept and the material must be cut free of dirt and rocks. Guidelines can be found on the registration site.
Our chipping program started in the Ross Valley area of Central Marin because FSM has conducted chipping programs in this area in the past and this experience gave us the best opportunity to beta test the program. After Central Marin we moved to Mill Valley and Southern Marin Fire District, again because FSM has worked with them closely in the past. This was the last chance for us to apply lessons learned before spreading to the rest of the County. Service to the remaining zones: San Rafael, Novato and West Marin starts on Monday, August 10. It is understandable that most of the remaining jurisdictions would like to have the service provided as soon as possible since we are well into the fire season. In the interest of fairness, the remaining firewise sites and jurisdictions were scheduled using a randomized computer program.