Financial Assistance for Reducing Wildfire Risk
During a wildfire all kinds of plant material can act as fuel for the fire - grasses, shrubs, trees, dead leaves, and fallen pine needles. The extent and density of this plant material around a structure, like your home, can influence the ability of firefighters to stop the fire from igniting the structure. By thinning and managing fuels out to 100 feet you’re creating a buffer area between a build-up of fuel for the fire (dense vegetation) and your home, lowering the intensity of a fire as it approaches your home. We call this buffer area your home’s defensible space.
With the cost of everything going up, spending money to thin and remove trees on your property may be the last thing you want to do. We don’t want the cost of wildfire mitigation work to stop you from taking care of your home. That is why we sought funding to help residents complete their mitigation priorities to build and maintain their home’s defensible space. Through our mitigation cost-share assistance program the cost of tackling projects to reduce your wildfire risk can be cut in half!
We offer a 50% reimbursement rate to homeowners who hire a contractor or rent equipment to build defensible space by managing vegetation within 100 feet of their home and 10 feet from their driveway.
This program currently assists primary residents living in the following Western North Carolina counties: Buncombe, Madison, Henderson, McDowell, Polk, Transylvania, Cleveland, & Rutherford Counties.
What type of projects qualify for cost-share?
There are simple fuel treatments that can make unwanted wildfires less likely and easier to manage. We call these treatments wildfire mitigation tasks. Currently, only vegetation management projects qualify for cost-share, which excludes home hardening or retrofitting projects. Projects must be within 100 feet of the home and/or within 10 feet of the driveway. Mitigation tasks must be identified as a mitigation priority on your wildfire risk home assessment to qualify for cost-share.
A few examples of qualifying projects include:
Vegetation and tree thinning, pruning, and removal, i.e. trimming branches that are within 10 feet of the home (or removing the entire tree); mid-story vegetation thinning to reduce ladder fuels within 100 feet of the home.
Disposing of large fuel accumulations (brush piles) that are considered hazardous fuel within 100 feet of the home.
Cleaning roofs and clearing gutters of dead leaves, debris, and pine needles.
Many more examples are listed on page 2 of the cost-share program guidelines document.
Homeowners may hire a contractor or rent equipment to perform these tasks. The contractor must be from a professional company or LLC and can provide documentation such as estimates and receipt of payment. We can offer local contractor suggestions but it is up to the resident to choose the contractor who will complete the work.
Mitigation equipment may be rented to complete mitigation tasks. A quote for rental expense must be submitted with the cost-share application. Examples of mitigation equipment are chippers, trailers to haul brush, brush cutters, etc. FYI: Hand tools such as pole saws, rakes, loppers, silky saws, and leaf blowers can be borrowed (for free!) from MVRCD's Mitigation Tool Cache.
Before and after photos for a mitigation project in Madison County, NC.
How to apply for cost-share assistance
To receive cost-share assistance, you must apply and sign a reimbursement agreement with us before the project begins. We want to make sure we have the proper documentation to accept projects for cost-share and can reimburse residents properly.
The first step to apply for cost-share is to schedule a wildfire risk home assessment to identify your mitigation priorities. The home assessment is a free service offered by Mountain Valleys staff or NC Forest Service staff. More information about home assessments and how to schedule one can be found here.
After you’ve received your home assessment and are aware of your mitigation priorities (documented on the assessment) you will then need to obtain a quote from a contractor or an estimate for equipment rental to complete the project. The cost estimate must be itemized with each project or tool priced individually.
You will need to provide 2-3 before pictures of the project areas. One or more of the pictures must include a side of the house - we want to see what the project entails and how close it is to the house or driveway. This is also a way for us to document the impact of the project by comparing before and after photos.
Now you’re ready to submit your application for cost-share assistance. You’ll send the completed application form with your home assessment, cost estimate, and before pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once your application is approved, we will send you a cost-share agreement to sign and return to us. This agreement identifies project details and reimbursement amount.
After you’ve signed the agreement, you will hire the contractor or rent equipment to complete the project. Be sure to estimate the amount of cubic yards of debris removed during your project as you’ll need to document that on the project summary sheet (a cubic yards conversion table can be found on page 4 of the guidelines document).
Once your project is completed you will submit the project summary sheet with a proof of payment from the contractor and after pictures from the same angle as your before pictures. Once we receive this final documentation, a check will be sent to you to reimburse 50% of the cost of the project. (Note: Reimbursements are capped at $2,000.)
Voila! Your project is complete. You have reduced your home’s wildfire risk. And you got reimbursed for half the cost!
The time it takes for you to get reimbursed really depends on when your contractor can provide an estimate and complete the project. Once the proper paperwork has been submitted, the reimbursement process happens fairly quick.
Cost share funding is available until December 2022.
Here are a few comments from previous cost-share recipients:
“Clearing the underbrush near the house will reduce damage in the event of a wildfire and will reduce incidence of snakes near the house. Good program!” - Polk County resident
“Everything looks so much better. I feel more secure. A lot of brush was removed that could have caused fire to spread fast and come close to the house. It also shows me what I need to do in the future to keep my house and property free of dangerous, dry, dead brush. It would be something everyone should do.” - McDowell County resident
“We cleared trees that were too close to the house. It opened up the back, allowing more light and air. This has been a terrific find! Jen was very helpful in identifying problem areas and making the reimbursement process as seamless as possible. Thank you!” - Buncombe County resident
To find more information about the mitigation cost-share assistance program including the program guidelines document, application, and FAQs, visit our cost-share assistance page. Please email email@example.com or call 828-206-6159 with any questions.
Mitigation project in McDowell County, NC.
This program is funded by the AIM grant program of Coalitions & Collaboratives, Inc. The AIM program is supported by a cooperative agreement with the USDA Forest Service. In accordance with federal law and the U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this organization is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call toll free voice (866) 632-9992, TDD (800) 877-8339, or voice relay (866) 377-8642. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.