HUERFANO — A new program in Huerfano County benefits the community in three ways. Tom Coseno, from the Third Judicial Probation Department, has put together a smoothly integrated plan to help rural landowners, low income and senior citizens, and offenders who need to do community service as part of their court sentencing. Landowners working to make their properties safe from wildfires find themselves with the problem of how to dispose of excess wood in slash piles. Low income residents can apply to LEAP (Low-income Energy Assistance Program) for assistance in heating bills throughout each winter, but in tough winters, it may not cover all of their expenses. Finally, the Third Judicial District needs ways to provide meaningful community service opportunities to people, in order to encourage them to become vested in their community and avoid becoming repeat offenders. Coseno’s program brings these three groups together in a win-win scenario for all. Here’s how: Through Energy Outreach Colorado, low income people can receive firewood at no cost. Homeowners in the county can donate firewood from fire mitigation work. Those doing community service are the link to pull it all together. They provide the
labor to clear the land, cut the wood and store it so low income people can access it. To date, the people providing the labor find this work very rewarding and feel they are helping people heat their homes during the cold Colorado winters. The whole effort began because Coseno has embraced the Firewise Community Program, which encourages people to thin wooded areas on their land by removing trees and brush from around their homes. Homeowners in Firewise Communities are encouraged to take responsibility for protecting their homes by reducing the risk of wildfire spreading. Paul Branson of the La Veta Fire Department has been working for years to educate people on how to make their property safe. Many people think this might change the beauty of their wooded land, but soon learn the trees are much healthier and safer when they have been properly thinned. When wooded areas have been thinned, it is important to remove the excess material, so it does not contribute to the fireload around structures. It is difficult to dispose of the cut wood, but it is suitable for firewood which can help people stay warm in the winter. People interested in obtaining firewood must get on the list by signing up with Energy Outreach Colorado that partners with LEAP. For an application call toll-free 1-866-HEAT-HELP or see more at: http://www.energyoutreach.org. Once you are on the list, you can call Tom Coseno at his office at 719-695-6555, to request wood. Landowners may call Coseno directly to donate wood from property.