Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Monday, Aug. 8 @ 3:38 p.m.

Del Norte OES on Standby to Offer Shelter to Fire Evacuees; Yurok Tribe Assists Tribal Citizens in Willow Creek

A view of the McKinney Fire from State Route 96 and Walker Road. | Photo courtesy of Inciweb

Local volunteer organizations were asked to stand by over the weekend in case an emergency shelter was needed for Siskiyou County residents evacuating from the Yeti and Alex fires.

That request still stands, Del Norte County Emergency Services Manager Maia Mello said Monday. But fire containment has increased and the outlook is better than it was Friday, she said.

“We have an MOU between ourselves — OES — and the Red Cross, which is federally mandated to assist with sheltering,” Mello told the Wild Rivers Outpost. “Between OES and the Red Cross, we have numerous identified locations that we could turn into shelters.”

Meanwhile, four Red Cross volunteers from Del Norte County are working a shelter in the Willow Creek area for residents evacuating from the Six Rivers Lightning Complex fires, according to the organization’s local community volunteer leader, Mary Dorman.

Red Cross volunteers from Del Norte County also helped with the evacuation shelters associated with the McKinney Fire last week, according to Dorman.

The Yurok Tribe has also formed a “multidisciplinary team” to help tribal citizens impacted by the Six Rivers Lightning Complex.

“The Yurok Client Services Department is providing Yurok tribal evacuees $500 for emergency assistance,” the tribe posted on Facebook on Monday. “The emergency assistant funds are available to all tribal elders and vulnerable adults regardless of income level.”
The Yurok Tribe’s Office of Emergency Services helped several elders evacuate their homes in the Willow Creek area on Sunday.

The Six Rivers Lightning Complex began as 12 blazes Friday spawned from thunderstorms moving through national forest land east of Willow Creek. There are currently eight active fires burning 3,181 acres north and south of State Route 299 near Waterman Ridge, Friday Ridge Road and Ammon Ridge. The fire is 0 percent contained, according to Inciweb.

Evacuation orders are in place north, south and east of Willow Creek in Humboldt County and in the Salyer Heights and Salyer Loop communities to the bridge at State Route 299 and Campbell Ridge Road in Trinity County, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The American Red Cross has set up an emergency shelter at Trinity Valley Elementary School in Willow Creek, while large animals are being sheltered at the Hoopa Rodeo Grounds.

Over in Siskiyou County, the Yeti and Alex Fires are 50 percent contained at 7,885 acres between Seiad and Happy Camp south of State Route 96, according to InciWeb.

Crews working the Yeti Fire are continuing mop up work to ensure no heat remains close to the fire perimeter. They have also begun repairing fire lines and building water bars to prevent erosion and sedimentation. Residents will continue to see smoke and some burning material within the fire perimeter for the next few weeks, according to InciWeb.

Mop up continues on the Alex Fire. Little heat has been detected within the fire perimeter, but there are still unburned fuels, according to InciWeb.

According to Mello, the request to be on stand by in case an emergency shelter in Del Norte County was necessary initially came from the Red Cross regional coordinator Friday and then from the Siskiyou County emergency manager.

The Campbell Fire, one of eight active fires comprising the Six Rivers Lightning Complex. | Image Courtesy of Basho Watson Parks via InciWeb

Mello began re-establishing contacts with local Community Emergency Response Teams and the Disaster Animal Response Team as well as Rural Human Services and the Community Food Council, both of which would be on hand to feed people. Mello also reached out to the Department of Health and Human Services director, Ranell Brown, who asked two public health nurses to be available incase a shelter was set up.

Mello said her core group of CERT volunteers responded right away, saying they were willing to help. There was also a larger pool of CERT volunteers she sent a query to.

“We got kind of a robust response saying we’re available to help at any time,” she said. “Volunteers are sticking with us and we’re trying to re-engage after the COVID surge came and went over the past few years.”

Further east, the McKinney Fire has burned 60,379 acres near the community of Klamath River in Siskiyou County and is 40 percent contained, according to InciWeb. The fire prompted thousands to evacuate their homes and has killed four people.

One of the four people reported dead as a result of the fire, Kathy Shoopman, 73, was a long-time Klamath National Forest lookout, who had been with the Forest Service since 1974. She died in her home in Klamath River.

According to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office, the cause of the McKinney Fire is under investigation. Deputies are also determining if there are additional fatalities, Sheriff Jeremiah LaRue stated via a Facebook post on Monday.

LaRue said his office is also investigating allegations against members of media who have allegedly brought “unauthorized people” into the restricted evacuation zone and disturbed the scene of burned homes before authorities had a chance to search for human remains.

LaRue mentioned ABC News, KRCR News Channel 7, CBS News, KDRV News Channel 12 and the Los Angeles Times specifically, stating that once his office is finished with his investigation, he plans to turn it over to the District Attorney.

“Working with the media is very important to us and we have done our best to more than accommodate them, but this behavior is only fueling distrust of the media,” LaRue wrote Monday.


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