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When Fire Flows

On the afternoon of August 2nd 2022, deep monsoonal moisture surged from the south, colliding with the McKinney Fire burn scar in Siskiyou County, California. Within hours, a flash flood had been initiated, mobilizing post-fire debris and sediment. This created a slough that poured into Vesa Creek and Little Humbug Creek, tributaries to the Klamath River. Deep gashes pattern the landscape where sediment cascaded off the mountainside.


The power of nature to shape and reshape herself is felt in these drainages. There is an energy that can only be felt by standing amidst the blackened earth, awash with sediment, boulders, and torn trees. It is silent, battered, and bruised. 


Downstream, the impacts were felt. The river flowed dark. Heavy with mud. The dissolved oxygen dropped to zero. Thousands of fish were killed, including juvenile trout, salmon, suckers, Pacific Lamprey, and amphibian species. Their loss was mourned deepest by the communities and tribes whose lives are centered on the Klamath. 


Is this it? Does fire destroy rivers and massacre fish? The story of fire and water is deep, and complicated, and unfinished. If fish populations can recover from mass kill events like these, could fire be… beneficial, and in fact, needed? More to come. 

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