JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — In one of the first approved allocations of American Rescue Plan Act money, Jefferson County is putting $2.8 million toward protecting homes from wildfires.

The Jeffco Wildfire Safe Team will be focusing on reducing fuels and recycling biomass around the county. The county is trying to combine this grant with other local grants, including a $1 million Landscape Scale Fuels Reduction Program grant from the state Division of Natural Resources, to capitalize on the effort.

“We take wildfire risk very seriously in Jefferson County and we wanted to do everything we could to be thoughtful and strategic about where we best leverage ARPA dollars and how we use those dollars to leverage additional state, federal and other grants that can help us reduce wildfire risks in our community,” Jefferson County Commissioner Lesley Dahlkemper said.

Part of the ARPA grant will be used to update several county plans surrounding wildfire protection, transportation and updating planning, zoning and building codes.

The county will also create two year-round locations to recycle biomass, also known as slash including tree limbs and pine needles. The goal is to establish over 200 dropoff days per year in the county with two permanent locations, representing an increase of 44 days from 2021 and 88 days in 2022.

The county now has a schedule starting in June for all the dropoff sites in Jefferson County.

Dahlkemper said education in communities from Evergreen to Pine will be a crucial part of the county’s outreach with these extra grant dollars.

“We’re also going to be working very closely with our fire-rescue departments, and they do tremendous work in working one on one with homeowners who need that extra help, that are sort of scratching their heads and saying ‘Hey I know I need to do more defensible space, but what does that look like? How do I address it?'” Dahlkemper said.