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Thinning grants available to Ashland residents

ASHLAND — Homeowners who reduce wildfire fuels on their property can get reimbursed up to $400 through grants available from the city.

"These funds are available to all city of Ashland residents," said Ali True, Firewise Communities coordinator with Ashland Fire & Rescue. "That's a change from previous years."

The Aug. 24 Oak Knoll fire that destroyed 11 houses and damaged three others near Exit 14 showed that even low-elevation fires, far from forested hills, can cause catastrophic damage. Ashland firefighters also dealt with other summer fires that burned overgrown weeds and blackberry bushes, threatening nearby homes.

In the past, Ashland has focused most of its wildfire-fuels-reduction work on the urban-wildlands interface where homes blend into the forest.

The new grants, totaling $50,000, require homeowners to dispose of the debris, not store it or burn it.

"That is the key with this grant funding. You cannot burn your debris," True said. "It's intended to get rid of fuel in a way that preserves air quality."

The National Fire Plan Biomass funding came to the city through efforts of local Oregon Department of Forestry staff members, she said.

To get started, a property owner should call True at 541-552-2231 to schedule a free wildfire safety home assessment. The assessment must be done through the fire department, not through a contractor.

It will include tailored recommendations for thinning wildfire fuels around the home.

Work that is done within 30 feet of a home is eligible for reimbursement, whether done by a contractor or the homeowner. People who have had work done through a previous fire grant are not eligible, True said.

After the thinning is complete, she will inspect the property to make sure the work was done, and then the person will be reimbursed.

City officials hope 100 homes will be treated using up to $40,000 of the funding. The remaining money will be used to administer the program.

True said the city does not keep a list of qualified contractors.

Options for disposing of debris include dropping it off at the Valley View Transfer Station, 3000 Valley View Road, at a cost of $8 per cubic yard. The station is open seven days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Recology Ashland Sanitary Service, which provides garbage and recycling services, can provide a 95-gallon, green, roll-cart for yard debris. The cart will be picked up every other week. A monthly fee, a $48 deposit and a 12-month commitment are required. The yard debris is turned into compost.

For large projects, Recology offers debris boxes that can hold landscaping debris. The boxes hold 10 or 25 cubic yards.

For more information and pricing on Recology waste disposal services, visit www.recologyashlandsanitaryservice.com or call 541-482-1471. The website has a map to the Valley View Transfer Station.

Biomass One, a company that produces energy and landscaping materials from wood waste, can accept wood waste at 2350 Ave. G in White City.

There is a $5 minimum charge for a pickup load. The company also rents bins that hold 35 cubic yards of wood debris.

For information on fees, allowable materials and instructions on how to get to the facility, visit www.biomassone.com or call 541-826-9422.

Wood that is burned by Biomass One to generate energy produces less than 1 percent of the smoke that would be emitted by open burning. The energy produced is enough to meet the needs of more than 20,000 homes, according to Biomass One.

Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.