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Central Oregon preparing for wildfire season

By John Hendricks
Published On: May 01 2013 09:57:07 PM CDT
Updated On: May 01 2013 09:57:50 PM CDT

NewsChannel 21's John Hendricks takes us to a prescribed burn and shows us how one community is getting ready

CAMP SHERMAN, Ore. -

Nice weather coming this weekend comes as a reminder that wildfire season is just around the corner and now is the time to prepare.

This week, Central Oregon firefighters are conducting several prescribed burns across the High Desert.

The burns are done to clear underbrush and keep fire danger down.

"It keeps the fire low to the ground and from climbing to the tops of the trees and shooting embers far beyond our control lines," burn boss Adrian Vellagas said.

On Wednesday near Camp Sherman, a crew of firefighters worked to treat nearly 150 acres of land.

"We started in this particular corner of the unit to take advantage of the wind pushing from the east, so we could back the fire to our end point," Vellagas said.

Several miles east of the burn, on Highway 20, evacuation signs point the way out in the small community of Tollgate.

"The lawns are green, they don't have any needles underneath their decks," Maintenance Manager Ken Birkes said.

He says for the last 20 years, they've worked to make their community as fire-safe as possible.

"If you can remove that fuel load from the places they are likely to be, you can substantially reduce your risk of wildfire on your property and increase your chance of surviving," Birkes said.

With mandatory evacuations over the last few years, Birkes says homeowners have really come together to clean up debris.

"It became a competition between neighbors, to see who could get the biggest pile," Birkes said.

Project Wildfire will be holding several free yard debris drop-off events at area landfills in coming days.

Click here for a list of sites and locations.

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