State of Emergency declared for Del Norte & Siskiyou Co. amid wildfires

DEL NORTE COUNTY, Calif. – California governor Gavin Newsom declaring a State of Emergency for Del Norte and Siskiyou Counties.

“It cuts red tape, it issues waivers so we can expeditiously get support into the community whether that’s fire trucks, first responders but also provide support services to the individuals who were impacted,” Deputy Director of Crisis Communications Brian Ferguson said.

This comes as the Happy Camp Complex in Siskiyou County and Smith River Complex in Del Norte County continue to burn after initially starting weeks ago.

Now, residents can get access to unemployment benefits easier, while also waiving fees to replace driver’s licenses and vital records.

But according to California’s Office of Emergency Services, activating federal resources like FEMA is not expected to happen anytime soon.

“A federal declaration requires a significant amount of damage to homes in property,” Ferguson said. “Much of the fires burning up north is burning in the wilderness which isn’t to say there isn’t impacts on individuals, so certainly if that becomes necessary we would absolutely want FEMA here to help us.”

Del Norte county has not revealed how many structures are damaged or destroyed in the Smith River Complex as of yet.

Right now, it is the most active and largest complex in the region.

Firefighters on the south side are working on securing lines as wind direction is expected to change.

“There’s a section of line between 199 and fringe creek road that we’ve got a lot of firefighters securing that line in anticipation for this easterly wind event that is going to be coming today and or tonight,” Smith River Complex south PIO Ryan Berlin said.

Air tankers and helicopters were seen across the skies on Tuesday as smoke finally cleared up enough for air operations to ramp up, especially on the north end of the fire.

As of Wednesday, over 6,000 acres of the complex are burning in Oregon.

Making Tuesday’s air operations, which included five helicopters, crucial to firefighting efforts on the north side.

“We were able to get in the air, we hadn’t been able to do that for a number of days,” Smith River Complex north PIO Matthew St. Pierre said. “In total, we had 44 thousand gallons of fire retardant put on the fire yesterday, seven hours per helicopter.”

More resources continue to arrive to the Smith River Complex with over 3,000 personnel assigned to the complex.

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NBC5 News reporter Zachary Larsen grew up in Surprise, Arizona. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. At ASU, Zack interned at Arizona Sports 98.7FM and Softball America. During his Junior year, Zack joined the ASU Sports Bureau. He covered the Fiesta Bowl, the Phoenix Open and major basketball tournaments. Zack enjoys working out, creative writing, music, and rooting for his ASU Sun Devils.
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