Thousands of fish appear to have perished in a remote area of northern California due to a wildfire, according to an indigenous group.
According to a statement from the Karuk Tribe, dead fish of all kinds were discovered on Friday at Happy Camp, California, along the Klamath River’s main stem.
Exactly what is killing the fish remains a mystery, but tribe biologists suspect a big debris flow created by heavy rains over the burn region is to blame, according to Craig Tucker, a tribe spokesperson.
More than 90 square miles of land have been charred by the massive McKinney fire, the state’s largest so far this season. It has been blazing just south of the Oregon border for many days. Fire destroyed the picturesque town of Klamath River, which had a population of about 200 people, killing four people and reducing the vast majority of the town’s structures to ashes just last week.
The local tribe is now taking stock of the damage done to the environment. The Karuk are working with the Yurok, a northern California tribe, and state and federal agencies to acquire access to the fire zone in order to better understand what happened to the fish and the depth of the situation.
Many though the exact location of the fish kill has not yet been determined, it is possible that it will spread farther downriver, resulting in the death of even more fish.
About 20 miles (32 kilometers) downstream from Seiad Creek’s flash flood, a Karuk shot showed several dozen dead fish belly up in thick, muddy water along the river bank.
According to climate change scientists, the West has become hotter and drier over the previous three decades and will continue to be hotter and drier in the future. Megadroughts in the American west have intensified so dramatically in the last two decades that the region is now experiencing the driest period in at least 1,200 years.
It was initially expected that the McKinney fire would be brought under control within a few days. However, violent storms with high winds swept in, escalating the blaze to uncontrollable proportions in a matter of hours.
Satisfactory progress toward the 30-percent containment goal was made.
One of the Karuk and Yurok tribes’ main goals has been protecting the Klamath River’s delicate fish stock for years. Both California’s largest indigenous tribes, the Karuk and Yurok, view salmon as a sacred food source.
Last year, a parasite that is lethal to salmon thrived in the warmer, slower-moving water of the Klamath River, resulting in the deaths of a large number of salmon.
A massive dam-demolition project, the largest in the history of the United States, is on track to remove four impeding lower-river dams next year as part of an effort to aid the salmon’s recovery after years of discussions.