By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
For parts of Monday, April 18, the sun was blotted out by smoke and ash in Cherokee due to a wildfire that started the day before. The fire, which has covered in excess of 50 acres (an exact amount is not known at this time) started on Conseen Drive off of Johnson Arch Road in the Yellowhill Community on the afternoon of Sunday, April 17.
Anthony Sequoyah, EBCI Secretary of Public Safety, said an exact cause of the fire is not known at this time, but an investigator has been on-site and will be issuing a report soon.
Several agencies have been involved in fighting the fire including the BIA Forestry Division, Cherokee Fire Department, U.S. Forest Service, and the National Park Service.
“We’ve got about 20 people right now that are on the ground working the fire lines and back burning it to try to get containment,” Sequoyah said in an interview on Monday night. He also noted that the fire is about 50 percent contained with 100 percent containment expected in the next 5-7 days. “Once they get the line completely surrounded, then they’re going to have to go back in and have these specialized crews come in and cut these snags, cut these big timbers. There are more specialized crews for the mop-up. They’re anticipating it taking at least five days to get the mop-up done once they get containment.”
Sequoyah said the most active area for this fire has been between the hills above downtown Cherokee and Yellowhill/Peavine Roads. One reason is the amount of dead trees due to a beetle infestation several years ago. “Many trees were affected and are dried out or had fallen so that’s where a lot of the hot spots are occurring.”
So far, no structural damages have been reported. “We’ve had the Cherokee Fire Department going out, and if anything is getting close, they’ll wet everything down. There are no injuries. The Chief’s Office has been heavily involved as has the BIA for the safety of people and the preservation of property.”
Sequoyah said the terrain of the area has been a challenge in containing this fire. “That area in the middle of town and through Acquoni Road is straight up, rock cliffs. It’s hard to do anything with that other than just let it burn.”
Helicopters have been employed to fight the fire due to the terrain issues. “They got the biggest bulk of it knocked out, and they kept it from going over on the Stillwell Branch side, and that was a big plus there,” Sequoyah noted.
He added, “Everything is well under control. We’ve got plenty of help that is here right now to help with this situation. It could be a lot worse. The danger level as far as any threats to homes or persons is very minimal. Everything is running smoothly. The Tribe has a good working relationship with the Bureau.”
– Robert Jumper, One Feather editor, contributed to this report.