NEVADA COUNTY, Calif. (KCRA) —The sound of a wood chipper grinding away amid the tall trees in Grass Valley is proving to be the latest sign of how aware foothill residents are of the increased fire danger during the ongoing drought, said the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County.

“The recent wildfire in Smartsville sure caught a lot of people’s attention,” said Joanne Drummond, the council’s executive director.

Watch report: Fire council in Nevada Co. chipping dry brush for free

Drummond said that because of heightened awareness of fire danger, a greater number of people are taking advantage of the council’s free wood chipping program.

“We’re backed up this year,” said Drummond. “Normally we serve about 1,000 customers, but this year’s it’s going to be more like 1,400. So, it’ll be a 40-50 percent increase.”

The program offers to chip debris piles of any homeowner for free so long as that homeowner has cleared and created defensible space around their home.

“Without this type of work, we’d have more fuels that could lead to more fires and to more damage,” said Terry McMahan, deputy fire marshal of the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District.

A grant supplied by Pacific Gas and Electric supports the free program.

“It’s very, very important for us to support this,” said Brandi Ehlers, a PG&E spokeswoman. “This can help prevent wildfires from impacting our lines and from impacting a whole lot more customers.”

For more information on the free wood chipper program, contact the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County.

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