Tule River Indian Tribe feeling impact of Windy Fire burning through Sequoia National Forest

Local News

TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KGPE) – In the south Valley, the Windy Fire continues to burn in the Sequoia National Forest.

The latest measurements have the fire at 25,200 acres and 4% containment. 

There are just over 900 firefighters working on the Windy Fire and many of them are camped out at the Porterville Fairgrounds as they go up to the mountains every day to fight the growing fire. 

As the Windy Fire rages on in the Sequoia National Forest, a good portion is burning in a remote area of the Tule River Reservation. On Monday, the eastern half of the reservation was completely blanketed in smoke. Residents are feeling the effects. 

“It’s very sad and very bad because of the air quality, especially the elders and people who suffer from medical conditions,” said Jenni Hunter, a resident of the reservation.  

Apart from the air quality, tribal leaders are working to manage the fire’s impact on the environment as well as sites important to tribal heritage. 

“Number one is our watershed. What we hear is a lot of the area is already burned, and a lot of the cultural sites that are in those areas,” explained William Garfield, a tribal council chairman.

 Those sites include sacred ceremonial grounds that have been in tribal traditions for generations. Other important areas for the tule river tribe include redwood and sequoia groves. 

“There’s two groves that are being threatened. Those are significant to us. Those have been there since the beginning of time, they’ve been there 2 or 3 thousand years,” said Garfield.

But fire officials say the old trees on the reservation are being protected and the Windy Fire is actually bringing some benefit to the environment by clearing out dead vegetation. 

“We’re seeing great fire effects. It’s cleaning the understory and it’s not getting into the trees,” said Nathan Gogna with the Bureau of Indian Affairs Fire Management.  

And while the smoke situation is pretty intense right now on the Tule River Reservation, fire officials we spoke with say they’re optimistic there will be no evacuation warnings or orders on the reservation.  

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