California tribes impacted by wildfires

'We’re waiting for the power to go out tonight, said Joseph Orozco, Hoopa and manager of KIDE radio

California tribes are impacted by the wildfires that continue to burn across the state.

The largest fire is the Kincade Fire, north of the San Francisco and in wine country. The fire has grown to more than 75,000 acres and is 15 percent contained as of Tuesday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Four of the 10 fires have been contained around 15 to 97 percent.

Miles from Kindred fire, the largest measured yet, is the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. Their office could not be reached.

Kendall Dixon, director of licensing at the Graton Gaming Commission, said the tribal office has been closed since yesterday and will be closed today and tomorrow due to personnel residing in areas of evacuation. Areas around the tribal office have been evacuated, smoke lingers in the air, or power outages have been happening, he said.

The evacuation areas are constantly changing, he said.

The Graton Resort and Casino is “safe right now” and they are away from the evacuation zone, he said.

Deano Esades, the Pechanga Fire Department Battalion Chief, traveled to Sonoma County to assist in the Kincade fire this past Friday as part of the mutual aid agreement, according to the department’s Facebook page.

Esades will assist as the division supervisor. The tribe’s public relations team is waiting for an update.

Further up north, tribes have been dealing with power outages on and off this month from the wildfires. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has been cutting off power to prevent more wildfires in the state.

The Hoopa Valley Tribe in northwest California is preparing for the next power outage.

“We’re waiting for the power to go out tonight at 9 p.m. Pacific standard time,” said Joseph Orozco, Hoopa and manager of KIDE, a radio station owned by the tribe. He has been keeping the tribal citizens updated.

They don’t know how long this power outage is supposed to last. The last two times this month, the blackouts were around two to three days. The length of the power outage “depends on how the winds are doing,” Orozco said.

The Hoopa Fire Department and Office of Emergency Service has set up a Community Resource Center in the Neighborhood Facility parking lot where people can power up their electronic devices, keep warm or obtain basic services, he said.

Shelters were set up yesterday where people can stay warm. It’s a giant tent in the tribal parking lot, he said. This took a while to arrive because Highway 101 is closed and traffic took a detour. This service is needed because many heaters use electricity.

“A big concern is safety,” said Orozco referring to the stop lights in the community and Humboldt County. After the electricity turns off, transportation will be an issue.

People have also been losing their food supply due to food in their freezers thawing out longer than 72 hours and going bad, he said.

However, emergency services have been helpful and taking generators to people so they can refreeze their food.

The tribe helps those who lose their entire food supply by faxing their forms to Eureka so they can receive assistance, he said.

The tribe’s conservation corps has also been visiting elders to make sure they have food, water, a need to refreeze food, and are well-supplied in medications.

For those who are without an electric pump for well water, the corps supplies the service, he said.

Rod Mendes, Chief of the Hoopa Fire Department and Office of Emergency Management Services, wrote on Facebook yesterday, that two fire trucks from the tribe and one fire truck from the Yurok Tribe are in southern California to work on the Martinez 3 Fire.

In Southern California, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians donated $25,000 to the Family Service Association of Redlands, a 121-year-old independent nonprofit to help families who lost their homes from the fires.

Kyra Stuart, the executive director of the organization, said the tribe and the organization have worked together before but the tribe reached out to them first in this instance.

“They had asked us to be a safety net agency to provide services,” Stuart said. “San Manuel is a huge supporter and sees the traumatization of what’s happening.”

The organization will help with first month’s rent, move-in deposits, case management, housing resources, supplies, food, hygiene, and more. Two families have been put into hotels using the services from the organization and tribe, Stuart said.

The fire was contained 100 percent two weeks ago, but the victims are still in “a lot of trauma and shocked” and are trying to figure out what they need, she said.

Any family who has been affected by the Sandalwood Fire in Calimesa can contact the organization at 909-793-2673.

Stay updated with the Hoopa Fire Department and Office of Emergency Management Services on their Facebook page or call them at 530-625-4366 during regular business hours.

Orozco provides updates on KIDE 91.3 FM. 

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Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné, is the Washington editor for Indian Country Today based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter: @jourdanbb. Email: jbennett-begaye@indiancountrytoday.com.

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