Barbara Lawlor, Peak to Peak. The dining room at Camp Wondervu was dotted with orange vests, the honored uniform of Saws and Slaws volunteers. It looked kind of like a Bronco Pep Rally, but the most noticed orange of the night was located at the silent auction table where a brand new, shiny orange Stihl Chain Saw donated by Ace Hardware, was up for bid.
It was the Annual Saws and Slaws Volunteer Appreciation & Silent Auction Event and volunteers from the Coal Creek, Nederland and Sugarloaf mitigation areas had been invited to attend a Mexican food buffet and a silent auction featuring 71 donated items worth $9,000. The purpose of the evening was to celebrate the end of the 2015 season and to raise funds to pay for the necessary insurance coverage. It costs about $3,000 for each event.
Cesar Gellido, one of the founding members of the organization, said that 1,091 volunteer hours had accumulated in the past year and that organizers are looking to begin a couple of paid positions.
Nederland resident Al Brewer says that the Ned Saws and Slaws began in the Summer of 2012, one year after Coal Creek Canyon originated the effort in 2011.
“We have grown over the years, taking on more fire mitigation projects in and around Nederland and teaching saw safety classes to expand the pool of volunteers who can operate a chainsaw during the events,” says Brewer.
“Last year we organized four mitigation projects where we mitigated seven private properties, worked with the town to finish the mitigation of Big Springs Park and held two saw safety classes where we trained nearly 24 sawyers. Over all the years, the Nederland group has organized 24 events and folks have put in over 1800 hours of volunteer effort to help reduce the threat of wildfire in our community.”
Cesar Gellido, of Coal Creek Canyon, said that their area hosted 16 events in the past year, trained 12 new sawyersm, and had 156 volunteers put in 1.091.5 hours, $21,830 worth of in-kind help. The first projects begin in May, weather permitting and finish in November.
“The remaining winter months we work with our local churches to find families/ individuals who may not be able to afford firewood or have the health to gather it themselves. It helps keep us fit for the next season.”
He adds that this year the group is going to be more intentional in working with the local American Youth Corps and CU students. He says 2015 proved to be a great experience working with those young people.
“Like in many volunteer organizations, it is easy to burn people out so we will be looking for creative ways to build a sustainable program that will continue to excite, educate and empower our local mountain residents to invest in their neighborhoods and build stronger communities.”
In the past year Saws and Slaws won a national award for it’s work with the community. In spring they received the 2015 Wildfire Mitigation Innovation Award by three different agencies. Volunteers who put in 20 hours received a t-shirt. Those volunteers dragged slash, piled slash and fed slash into chippers. They cut down the trees and cut off the branches. The heated up the grills and cooked mountains of burgers and hot dogs. They took pictures and they helped with the web site.
Gellido told the hundred plus attendees that the community was a major player in the project, that you couldn’t just cut down the trees and walk away.
It is the goal of Saws and Slaws to take care of the forest, the wild land/urban interface. “There is a responsibility of living up here. The group works on fuel reduction and chipping curbside slash. An important part of what they do is sharing a meal, getting to know their neighbors and meeting with other communities.
Now that the 2016 season is near, Saws and Slaws will begin with a saw safety course on April 9-10. The quest for new members begins. “We need younger people, we need to get the teens to haul the slash, we need the young people to grow up with us.”
Saws and Slaws is a boost to the local economy, from monthly meetings at coffee shops to having Ace repair the saws. Gellido says he also would love to pass on wood to area furniture makers.
Nederland Saws and Saws organizer Al Brewer says the local group also needs new members. “ We’re looking for homeowners who are interested in participating in 2016. We need neighborhood leaders who will coordinate with 1-2 of their neighbors to create an event location and then contact S&S. S&S will spearhead the event organizing and logistics with the neighborhood lead.”
May is just around the corner!