Despite the damp summer and fall, wildfire mitigation and the resulting slash remain hot topics in the mountain area, but Jeffco residents are seeing changes in the county’s approach to the issue.
County Commissioner Donald Rosier recently announced that plans for a controversial slash-burning operation on county property at Shaffers Crossing have been scuttled, and the county is looking at other options for handling the endless summer surplus of slash.
Last summer, mountain fire departments and the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office collected more than 21,000 cubic yards of slash at three remote collection sites.
“We collected more slash than we did last year,” said Mark Gutke of the Sheriff’s Office.
Gutke said the most slash the county ever collected was in 2011, when the Sheriff’s Office operated seven remote sites that summer.
“I was told to shave the program down after that because of the high costs,” Gutke said. “That’s why we operate three sites per summer now.”
Residents were charged between $5 and $25 to dump their tree limbs, pine needles and other organic material. The county then paid different companies to remove and chip the slash.
The 2013 remote slash collection program cost the county more than $94,000.
Rosier spoke to mountain residents at the Friends of Elk Creek meeting at Conifer High School on Oct. 2 and announced that the county is no longer planning to install a slash burner at Shaffers Crossing.
“The Shaffers Crossing burner is off the table,” Rosier said. “(Mountain residents) spoke, and I listened.”
The county had received heat from residents since the Jeffco Planning Commission approved the burner at Shaffers Crossing in June 2012. The project had been at a standstill since because of a lack of funds.
Slash disposal became difficult for mountain residents after the Rooney Road recycling facility stopped accepting slash last year.
Rosier has teamed with Indian Hills resident Bret Roller to explore more cost-effective ways for Jeffco and its residents to dispose of slash. The plan would allow for approximately 20 sites around the county to collect slash, which would then be delivered to a central site and broken down into compost.
The idea is still in the planning phase.
“We’re proceeding with the same format (three collection dates) for next summer,” Gutke said.
Jefferson County was blasted with rainfall this summer. Along with major flooding in September, the mountain area experienced record rainfall in July and August.
“The weather definitely helped with wildfires this summer,” Gutke said. “But it’s also that we’ve taken the stance to, early on, throw as many resources as we can at a wildfire. Our goal is to keep a fire small with a big, initial attack to keep it from growing.”