The Yurok Tribal Council declared a State of Emergency in relation to the sustained shroud of wildfire smoke that has enveloped the eastern portion of the Yurok Reservation.
The primary purpose of the emergency declaration, passed on August 31, is to activate the Tribe’s emergency response team. The special declaration allows the emergency manager to mobilize additional Tribal staff and resources to address this public health crisis. The emergency manager is also working closely with and coordinating with fire managers, Humboldt County, the Red Cross, the National Weather Service and other partners in an effort to anticipate future challenges related to the fires and smoke.
“We are very concerned about the health of all reservation residents and we are doing everything possible to help the community cope with the poor air quality,” said Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr., the Chairman of the Yurok Tribe.
The Yurok Reservation is in proximity to two large clusters of wildfires, which are responsible for sending a tremendous amount of smoke to the area. The Eclipse Complex and the Orleans Complex, burning to the east of the reservation, have scorched approximately 115,000 acres.
Three weeks ago, the Yurok Tribe transformed the Libby Nix Community Center into a clean air shelter, which is presently open to all reservation residents and will remain so until the smoke subsides. The shelter is currently stocked with cold water, comfortable seating and filtered air. The Yurok Transit Service is providing rides from 14 different locations to the clean air center. The Tribe has performed welfare checks at the residences of elders and at the homes of individuals with medical conditions that may be exacerbated by the bad air quality. Tribal personnel have distributed special masks to those who are sensitive to prolonged smoke exposure. To assist those living in the persistently smoky area, Tribal staff volunteered to work at the Weitchpec facility during the weekend, including the Labor Day holiday.
Today’s light rains slightly improved air quality, but the extreme smoky conditions are projected to return over the weekend. The brief storm has been accompanied by lightening, a potential source of new fires.
“The Yurok Tribe would like to sincerely thank all of the wildland firefighters, who are working so hard to control these fires and keep the community safe. We hope the recent rains give them some respite,” Chairman O’Rourke said.