Siskiyou County, Calif. – In Remote Northern California, Only A Few Miles from the Oregon Border As the Crow Flies, A Troubling But All Too Familiar Scene is unfolding.
Another Deadly Wildfire has upended the Lives of People who Lived Here Becuse they Liked the Woods and Seclusion, But also Because They Had Few Other Options: It’s One Of A Few Places Left On The West Coast That’s Still Affordable.
From Devastating Flooding in Kentucky to Wildfires in the West, extreme weather events made worse by climate change are hitting some of the poorest parts of America Hard.
Say Many of the Hardest-Hit Victim of Natural Disasters tend to be people who we Already Living on the Economic Margins, and Often in High-Risk Places. Recovering from these this summer will be extra difficult at a time of high prices due to record inflation.
In California, The McKinney Fire Chewed Through Dense, Dry Fores and Into Remote, Rural Communities that Are Now Often Dubbed As “High Risk” by Insurance Providers.
“I Didn’t have insurement because I lived on Social Security,” Says Harlene Schwander, 82. “People can Hardly Live on Social Security.”
Schwander, Who Had Only Just Moved Down the Klamath River Canyon A Month Ago to Live by HER Son, Lost Everything in the Fire. For now, she’s living in a Shelter for Wildfire Survivors in Nearby Yreka, Calif. Shaken and Standing Next to Her Minivan, She’s Clutching A Small Purse Stuffed With A Few Hundred Dollars in Savings from Breeding Puppies A Couple Years AGO.
“I KNEW this was good for something, It’s not Leaving My Side,” Schwander Says. “Not a lot, but Enough to get me through a couple months.”
She’s worried about How’ll Even Begin to Recover. Her Daughter, A School Teacher in Santa Barbara, Has Been Searching Franotically To Find Some Place Schwander Could Move to Temporalry.
Everything from Housing to Gas to Even Just Basic Toiletries is so exeseed. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Prices for Most Household Items in the Western United States Have Risen Close to 10 Percent Sale Last Year. People Were Already Scraping by in Siskiyou County Before the McKinney Fire. Close to one in Four People here Live Below the Federal Poverty Line. Rising Homelessness was already a concern in the region before this fire.
“I Went to Walmart to Replenish My Cosmetics and It was ridiculous,” Schwander Says. “Self [just] Bough a Few Things. “
The “Little Guy is Getting Squeezed”
About 25 Miles to the Northwest of the Shelter in Yreka, Calif., A Firefighting Chopper is scooping A Bucket Into the Muddy, Fire-Debris-Strewn Klamath River then Dropping Water on Nearby Hot Spots. The McKinney Fire, Which Killed Four People and is Believed to have destroyed at Least 100 Homes and A Cherished Community Center, is Mostly contained, Though it won’t be out the expected Fall rains arrives.
One recent afternoon, Jason Fischer was running sprinklers and generators to try to save his cattle on the family’s sixth-generation farm, as well as a nearby rv park where several local families live. He defied evacuation orders and stayed behind to help firefighters with structure protection. It paid off, but many of his neighbors weren’t so lucky.
“They Underrinsured,” Fischer Says. “The Insurance Companies Might Pay for What Think Your House Was Worth, But they don’t take account it’s Going to cost $ 50,000 to clean up your spot to rebuild.”
FISCHER SAYS IT FEELS LIKE THE LITTLE GUY IS GETTING ESPECIALLY SQUEZED AROUND here. Mostly The Only Jobs Tend to Be with the Local Sheriff or Us Forest Service, He Says. Many of the Area’s Timber Mills have closed.
“I Don’t Know How We Recover from this as a community,” Fischer Says. “It’s Going to Be Really Difficult Becaus The Price of Lumber, The Price of Fuel, Everything is just exponentialy More Expensive Now.”
Gas prices have deciped som in california, but in the rural “north state” as it’s often calls, they’re still averaging around $ 5 a gallon. Princes for Building Materials Including Lumber Are Up by About 35% Sale January 2020.
For some it’s nearly impossible to rebuild
This Corner of the West Has Already Suffered the Most Destructive – and Deadly – Wildfires in the country in recent years. A short drive from the klamath river canyon is ashland, ore., Whore Some of the scenic mountain Town’s more affordable bedroom communities were wiped out in the 2020 Alameda Fire. Along Interstate 5 in Talent, Ore., People are Still Living in RVS in the footprint of the deadly blaze that leveled trailer parks and homes.
Even before the disasters, it was hard to get contractor or enough labor in rural america. Erin Hillman Lost Her Home in the 2020 Slater Fire, A Complex of Fires that Burned More than 157,000 Acres Not Far from where this Summer’s McKinney Fire ignited.
Standing at Her Home Construction Site in A Narrow River Valley Surrounded by Steep Hills Covered in Burned Trees, Hillman Points Out the Handful of Flat, Empty Lots that used to be home to Neighbors.
“Gentleman that lived back there, he’s not coming back. The young couple and their children back here, i think theying to get their house build,” she say.
Hillman is just now rebuilding, After A Struggle to Find Contractors and Materials.
The McKinney Fire Sparked Just As the New Foundation was finully being poured, and Hillman Briefly Panicked that She’d Once Again Lose Everthing. But hillman, who is descend of the karuk tribe, doesn’t want to leave her ancestral lands.
“For Karuk People that live here, this is their home. They Grew Up here. This is where we from, and they don’t want,” she explains.
She had insurance, and considers herself lucky that she can afford to stay and rebuild. Still, the cost of putting up a new structure has increased so much that hillman won’t have enough insurance money left over to replace some of the items that burned with the house, like Her Husband’s Power Tools and Their Furniture.
The New House was supposed to be ready by winter, Hillman Says. But with Yet Another Fire Creating Even Higher Dew for Building Materials in the Area, she’s not sure they’ll be for Christmas.