Published September 16, 2022

As the Barnes Fire in Modoc County, northeast California continues to evolve, burning predominantly on the western slopes of the south Warner mountains, local communities and agencies have united under the strength of collaboration.

This week, the fire spread to the eastern slopes of the Warner range on and adjacent to the Fort Bidwell Indian Reservation, where a Lomakatsi inter-tribal forestry crew brought fuel hazard reduction and workforce capacity to a multi-agency emergency response strategy to protect lives, homes, and natural and cultural resources.

The traditional aboriginal place name for this area is “Yamoos,” and is home to the Northern Paiute Gidutikad Band as well as non-tribal community members. Tribal affiliations in this region include The Klamath Tribes, Kosealekte Band of the Ajumawi-Atsuge Nation (Pit River Tribe) and Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

Fort Bidwell Tribal administration and staff are leading preparations and contingencies for water, emergency services, transportation, shelter, evacuations, medical services, and community resources, with support from Arnold DeGarmo, Regional Program Analyst for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Pacific Region, Branch of Wildland Fire Management.

On Monday, Lomakatsi Executive Director Marko Bey, Tribal Partnerships Director Belinda Brown, Communications staff, and the inter-tribal crew joined the community operations meeting hosted by the Northern Paiute Gidutikad Band, which brought core agency and Tribal representatives in front of the community for a real-time wildland fire update, Q & A, and strategic coordination.

“We’re here to protect the Tribal community, our homes, our elders, and all of our cultural items. This is definitely a wake-up call in regards to keeping our neighborhood and our community safe. I’m glad that this work is happening, we’re learning a lot and the community has pulled together in a huge team effort – that’s something that the community really needed.”

Meldrick One Horse Meza

“As our communities prepare and respond to this incident, it’s important that we take actions that serve our sustainability and resilience in the long term,” said Brown, enrolled member of the Kosealekte Band of the Ajumawi-Atsuge Nation and descendant of the Northern Paiute Gidutikad Band. “That includes advocating for our cultural and natural resources, Tribal elders and youth, and growing capacity in a workforce to provide emergency response and ongoing restoration of the land for the benefit of the now and new generations of our community.”

The Barnes Fire started by lightning Sept. 7 and grew as of Wednesday afternoon to more than 5,800 acres. The incident has drawn more than 600 personnel, including California Interagency Incident Management Team 1, Modoc County Sheriff’s Office, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and USFS Modoc National Forest.

With all Lomakatsi wildland fire crews and resources deployed on wildfire incidents across the region, we dispatched a Lomakatsi forestry, trail and recreation crew that actively served on contingency efforts to protect 10 homesites earlier this week through fuels reduction, to create defensible space and support safer wildfire response in the event the fire moves into the housing area. The Northern Paiute Gidutikad Band hosted the five-member Lomakatsi crew composed of Tribal citizens from the Klamath, Modoc, and Harney Counties, and Rogue Basin restoration workforce personnel from Jackson County.

Meldrick One Horse Meza, Representative of Northern Paiute Gidutikad Band Tribal Council, volunteered and recruited others to help the crew clear fuels and raise tree canopy base heights within 100 feet around houses and power lines early in the week. Activities built upon residents’ work on their own properties and dozer line constructed on the ridge above the main housing area, expanding a fuel break between property and the fire’s potential progression in the case of southwest winds.

“We’re here to protect the Tribal community, our homes, our elders, and all of our cultural items,” Meza said from the worksite Tuesday. “This is definitely a wake-up call in regards to keeping our neighborhood and our community safe. I’m glad that this work is happening, we’re learning a lot and the community has pulled together in a huge team effort – that’s something that the community really needed.”

One resident adjacent to the fuel break said she was grateful for the crew coming in to bolster the limited local workforce, while she helped survey, evacuate, and prepare tribal elders during the incident. She expressed hope that the fuels work, which includes invasive brush removal, will serve as a reminder to take better care of the land in perpetuity.

Lomakatsi has partnered with the Fort Bidwell Indian Community on ecocultural restoration since 2016, through our tribally-led Tribal Partnerships Program, with a goal of assisting the tribe in strengthening workforce capacity, creating job training opportunities and support services, and building wildfire resilience within communities and ecosystems.

Emergency preparations continue as wildfire containment hinges upon weather in the coming days and fire behavior through steep topography. We are grateful for funding from Center for Disaster Philanthropy that supports Lomakatsi’s Tribal Partnership Program, and mitigation, emergency response and ongoing engagement on this incident. This private philanthropic support has allowed Lomakatsi to bring the resources to support the Tribal community in a time that demands an expeditious and united effort. We send healing thoughts to those who are affected by fire this season.

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