The FireSmart committee of Bragg Creek has rented a wood chipper to safely dispose of tree clippings for residents in the hamlet. The wood chipping service is free.
“[The FireSmart committee] applies for a grant and we get these grants from the Forest Resource Improvement Association of Alberta and when we get a grant, we rent a chipper to help people dispose of these trees,” said Marcus Weckesser, a district chief with Rocky View County Fire Services and a representative for the FireSmart committee.
The committee is hosting the Chipper Days four times this summer, and the first of the four days was held on June 11. The next Chippers Days will be held on June 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Water Treatment Plant located at 55 Burnside Drive in Bragg Creek.
“The turnout was absolutely amazing,” said Weckesser, when asked how the first Chipper Days this year went. “I’m thinking we had like 50 loads.”
When completing yard work, people often do not have the resources to safely dispose of their yard waste or they do not know how to dispose of it properly, explained Weckesser.
“It’s an inconvenient part of the whole process for the homeowner, so we just try to make it a little bit more convenient for them,” he said.
Part of that convenient process means residents do not even have to leave their vehicles when visiting the chipper, ensuring everyone remains safe. Staff direct visitors on where to go upon entering the water treatment plant, then staff remove the trimmings and put them through the chipper.
“They have to stay in their car the whole time because it’s an active work site with a chipper,” Weckesser explained.
“We unload all the branches and all the trees and all the trimmings from their trailer or their truck. It works better for us if they stay in their vehicle.”
However, not everything can be disposed of through the chipper. Weckesser said only tree trimmings and small branches that are less than eight inches in diameter are able to pass through.
“It has to just be tree trimmings from your garden activities,” he said.
The wood must also be untreated and free of paint. Nails and other metal fixtures, like barbed wire, must be removed from the wood, as it can damage the blades of the chipper, according to Weckesser.
“If we find material that is unacceptable, we simply will not unload [it]… we’re not a waste disposal place, we are there just to remove chippings and trimmings,” he said.
Should a patron show up with items that cannot be disposed of, they will be turned away from the site and asked to get rid of their own waste in the appropriate location.
According to Weckesser, oftentimes people don’t know what they can and can not bring, so it’s important to thoroughly check the load before heading off to the chipper, removing pieces like metal scraps or painted fence posts.
Afterwards, the chippings are given to landscape firms, who convert it to mulch and soil. Turning the chippings to mulch and soil eliminates the fire hazard that the original garden waste poses.
Chipper Days was started by Bragg Creek’s FireSmart committee. The committee, which has been running for four years, is comprised of Rocky View County council Kevin Hanson as well as greater Bragg Creek representatives and community members.
“FireSmart as a whole is an attempt to protect communities from the intensity and from the ravages of the wildfire,” Weckesser said.
Those interested in joining the FireSmart committee can contact Rocky View County or call Rocky View Fire Services headquarters at 403-230-1401.
“We’re just helping homeowners in their efforts to keep their community safe,” Weckesser added.