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Residents and property owners affected by wildfires need to submit forms to their county by Oct. 16

Oregon residents whose homes or properties were impacted by wildfires may be eligible to receive free help with hazardous debris and ash clean up.

PMG PHOTO: EMILY LINDSTRAND - The Dodge Community Church building was one of the casualties of the Riverside Fire. The state and FEMA are offering cleanup assistance to property owners and tenants affected by the Oregon wildfires.An Oregon Debris Management Task Force, with assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is offering cleanup of household hazardous waste, as well as debris and ash. Clackamas, Douglas, Jackson, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln and Linn counties have county-coordinated efforts for the service. Residents may also be eligible for FEMA unemployment assistance and residents of select counties are eligible for temporary housing.

To qualify for debris removal, right-of-entry forms must be submitted to the affected owner's county of residence by Friday, Oct. 16. Cleanup efforts are scheduled to begin during the week of Oct. 19 in Jackson County first, with other affected counties following thereafter. Forms are available on county websites, or by calling 682-800-5737. FEMA notes that the cleanup services won't impact insurance policies and won't reduce insurance funds otherwise reserved for rebuilding costs. Business owners may also take advantage of the service.

"To allow cleanup teams to begin removal of hazardous materials from burned properties, county officials and Oregon's Debris Management Task Force are urging residents to submit access agreements, called Right-of-Entry forms," an announcement from FEMA states. "Removal of hazardous waste is the first step in the wildfire cleanup process and available at no cost to property owners."

While insurance policies typically cover debris removal after a fire, the state and federal agency urge residents to go through the county, rather than try to clean it up themselves.

"If federal, state or local agencies lead the ash and debris removal effort, they will only ask for insurance funds after the property owner has rebuilt their home, if insurance funds are still available," the state's wildfire recovery site states. That means property owners have a better chance of not having debris removal costs deducted from their available home rebuilding funds, if they have it hauled away by the county and state, versus doing it themselves.

The state Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and FEMA ask property owners or renters not to try to remove the debris themselves, as it could be toxic or pose an environmental hazard.

According to an Oregon wildfire recovery update released Monday, Oct. 12, teams will remove household hazardous waste first, as well as ash and debris, at no cost to property owners. The cleanup is a joint effort of OEM, Oregon Department of Transportation and the Department of Environmental Quality.

For more information about wildfire assistance, visit the Oregon wildfire recovery website.

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