Working quickly to help Californians recover following wildfires that burned through Siskiyou County last year, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) recently completed wildfire debris removal on affected residential properties.
To aid those in recovery from the Mill, McKinney and Mountain fires, Cal OES coordinated with state and local partners to complete the mission in less than a year. Work persisted through inclement weather, including rain and snow, to deliver residents what they needed to recover.
The state offered a no-cost homeowner program to assist in the massive cleanup. In partnership with local officials and CalRecycle, property owners signed up for California’s consolidated debris removal program.
The debris removal process, completed in June of 2023, successfully cleared all 218 properties that applied for the program.
Lincoln Heights is one of the oldest historically Black communities west of the Mississippi. One of the residents, Chester Hopkins, was raised there and saw the work everyone did to help his community recover. The Hopkins family plans to stay in Lincoln Heights – rebuilding their home on their multi-generational property.
“They came in a did a real nice cleanup job for us,” Hopkins said. “It’s just a lot of memories that we have, ya know? Our kids are going down, trying to sled down the street, or something like that. When you’ve been here 65 years it’s just a lot of memories.”
Recovery in Siskiyou County is widespread. The Klamath River Community Hall was a community linchpin that was destroyed by the McKinney Fire in 2022. Less than a year later, with assistance from the Consolidated Debris Removal Program, the community is ready to rebuild.
Mike Story, a retired firefighter in Klamath River, is an active leader at the Klamath River Community Hall and is leading the charge on the rebuild.
“The debris removal program did help immensely, because that spot where the hall was had a lot of old appliances and the leftovers from the building. It was helpful to get that removed, the soil sampled, so that we’re okay to build from here,” Story said.
Recovery is unique in every disaster, but Cal OES works closely with local officials to help communities get back on their feet. Cal OES provided recovery support to Siskiyou County throughout the whole process, tailoring methods for the rural county.
Bryan Schenone, the Siskiyou OES Director, witnessed the disaster response and recovery, including the extensive debris removal.
“They know our needs, they know our capabilities and they can step in. Cal OES really helped us achieve what needed to be done,” Schenone said.
Regrowth and resilience. It’s almost been a year since the Mill, McKinney and Mountain fires – and the transformation is remarkable.