>   FireFree is planning and preparing for its ninth successful year of sponsoring free yard waste and debris clean up weekends in Central Oregon.
   FireFree, which began in 1997, allows residents of Central Oregon the opportunity to dump yard waste and debris at no charge at area landfills and transfer stations in Jefferson and Deschutes counties.
   FireFree is one of the most successful education and mitigation programs in Central Oregon and is now a national model for risk mitigation across the country.
   In addition to cleaning up yard waste that has accumulated over the past year, and removing flammable vegetation, residents are encouraged to prune trees that present a hazard and clear any flammable materials that may have encroached on the minimum 30-foot buffer zone, "the defensible space," around homes and other structures.
   Homeowner participation in FireFree may also assist residents in meeting the requirements of the Oregon Forestland -- Urban Interface Fire Protection Act (formerly Senate Bill 360).
   Following is a schedule of clean up weekends and locations for Jefferson County. Residents are encouraged to mark their calendars and take advantage of these free clean up weekends.
   Yard debris will be accepted at the Box Canyon Transfer Station the weekends of April 30 and May 1; and May 7 and 8 only. The Box Canyon Transfer Station is located on Grizzly Road in Madras. Weekend hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
   For participating residents, please note that stumps larger than three inches in diameter, sod, manure, lumber or other wood products and land clearing debris are not permitted free of charge during these clean up weekends. They will be accepted although regular rates for these materials will apply. Also please note that sod is not accepted at transfer stations at anytime.
   This is also a good time to relocate wood piles and leftover building materials that may spread wildfire; inspect your roof to consider how fire resistant it is; and make sure easy-to-read road signs and home addresses are clearly visible from the road to allow firefighters to find homes more quickly in emergencies.
   All of these efforts will help in reducing the risk of loss from wildfires within our communities.
   FireFree is a public education campaign designed to increase resident participation in wildfire defense and to mitigate losses due to wildfire. The annual clean up weekends are a key part of involving area residents in removing debris from around their homes and property, and increasing awareness about other steps they can take to reduce the potential for catastrophic wildfires reaching homes and neighborhoods.
   The Central Oregon FireFree committee is sponsored by Project Wildfire and includes volunteers and partners from the Bend Fire Department, Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook County fire agencies, City of Bend Development Services, the Deschutes National Forest, Oregon Department of Forestry and a number of local government organizations, private businesses and individuals.
   For more information about FireFree activities in your area, call your local fire department or Project Wildfire at (541) 322-6396.
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