Northwest Fire Season Stretches Tribal Resources Thin

Oct 4, 2012

Fire crews are pushing back against a new blaze near Omak, Wash. The 5,000-acre wildfire on the Colville Indian Reservation has already destroyed two homes and forced other residents to evacuate. The Northwest’s busy fire season has taken a toll on tribal lands this year.

Students at the Paschal Sherman Indian School spent a night in hotel beds wearing donated pajamas after a fire came dangerously close to their dorms. The fire near Omak is the third major blaze on the Colville reservation this year.

Tribal spokeswoman Kathy Moses says the reservation employs a seasonal fire crew, but it’s not used to seasons like this one.

“Our reservation is actually 1.4 million acres, so when you have several fires in different locations, our resources are spread thin. So that’s one of the issues we’ve run into.”

County and state fire crews have come in to assist. Thousands of acres of tribal land across the Northwest burned this year.

In Oregon, one of the toughest fires of the season was on the Warm Springs Reservation. It was finally contained at 12,000 acres. In Idaho, fires forced evacuations on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network