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Los Osos neighbors band together in preparation for fire season

Wood chipper ahead of fire season
Posted at 6:44 PM, May 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-18 22:41:15-04

In Los Osos, neighbors have come together to prepare for fire season, using a wood chipper to dispose of organic materials that could easily be fuel for a wildfire.

“I can’t tell you what the volume is, but a whole lot of stacks, a whole lot taller than I am,” said Russ Merritt, a resident in the Cabrillo neighborhood.

He and his gardener piled brush and other organic materials in piles down the block, along the length of his property.

“A lot of our neighbors have collected material, and we’ve been very busy for several weeks trying to get rid of it,” he said.

The chipping opportunity began last Sunday at a public event and will continue through Thursday in specific neighborhoods.

Ted Mathiesen, a supervisor for the San Luis Obispo Community Fire Safe Council and a retired U.S. Forest Serviceman, said, “Pull it to the street, and the idea that we’re going to do today is we’re going to have the chipper come by and the chipper - what we do is the contractor feeds the material into the throat and it grinds it up.”

Chipping starts early in the morning and finishes when the last neighbor is done. On Wednesday, they'll finish up in Cabrillo and Thursday will be the Highland neighborhood.

Organizers were expecting only 10 property owners to participate. Instead, they had over 50.

"We estimate that we got approximately 35 yards from the public and that’s better than we’ve ever done before. But because this neighborhood and my neighborhood took it upon ourselves to collect the material, we were able to generate possible four times that amount of material,” said Emily Miggins, the volunteer coordinator for the Los Osos Fire Safe Council Focus Group.

Captain Danny Ciecek of CAL FIRE Station #15 in Los Osos said firefighters were excited about the event and happy to pitch in, providing help and direction.

“Ultimately, this chipping event was really successful based on the community. They’re the ones who made it successful,” Ciecek said.

Miggins said that she and other neighbors have been trying to get events like this to happen for almost three years.

She is the creator of a Facebook Group called the "Los Osos Fire and Emergency Preparedness Group" with more than 800 members.

This past December, organizers started raising awareness and applying for grants on behalf of Los Osos. The local Fire Safe Council matched it.

Mathiesen said of the event, “Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a fire in the community to get everyone’s attention but we certainly don’t want that to happen. We want to do it on our terms.”