HAPPY CAMP, Cali. – Wildfires have displaced thousands of people on the west coast over the past few months.
Many are waiting for federal relief from FEMA, but that’s not the case in Happy Camp, CA where more than 200 homes were lost.
Buster Attebery is devastated for his tribe and community, but he’s also frustrated.
“Very little communication with the county,” said Attebery.
It’s been more than a month since the Slater Fire destroyed more than 200 homes in Happy Camp, CA. The chairman of the Karuk Tribe wants one question answered. Where is FEMA?
“I’ve asked our tribal liaison for the governor why Siskiyou County wasn’t on the emergency declaration [list] yet. They didn’t have an answer,” said Attebery.
Until FEMA comes in, roughly 20% of the Happy Camp population can’t go back to their homes.
“In order for us to move forward with getting FEMA in here and doing the necessary hazmat clean-up they need to do that before the fire victims can get back in there,” said Attebery.
Several members of the Karuk Tribe worked and lived within the town, and lost everything to the Slater Fire.
“Many of our tribal members had regalia, arrowhead making, baskets that were destroyed in the fire. Reality is this fire came so fast and so furious that people barely had time there with their lives,” said Attebery.
Irreplaceable items are gone and members without homes leave the community heartbroken. Now the Karuk Tribe pushing for better forest management.
“In the aftermath of everything that has happened the real frustration is that this could have been prevented. It’s not something new. The Karuk Tribe has been trying to work with Klamath National Forest for decades. Getting them to realize the importance of indigenous people’s methods,” said Attebery.
The tribe is also asking for a full investigation on the fire.
“We know this fire was not started by a lightning strike. We know that despite the red flag warnings, despite the high temperatures and high winds that Pacific Power did not shut the power off in Happy Camp like they should have,” said Craig Tucker, Natural Resources Policy Consultant.
While community members patiently wait for federal help, the Karuk Tribe has purchased travel trailers for effected Happy Camp residents.