According to a news release
from the Karuk Tribe, their preliminary observations suggest “massive debris flows” following the flash floods in areas impacted by the blaze are the cause for the dead fish.
“We know the dissolved oxygen in the river plummeted two nights in a row as these pulses of mud hit the main stem of the river, so it is very clear to us that we had a high intensity fire and then we had a flash flooding event kind of come behind the fire and it just rushed ash and debris and mud into the river,” Tucker told CNN on Saturday.
“Virtually everything in the river died,” he said, adding that they don’t yet know for how many miles of the river the dead fish stretch as the area is still largely restricted because of the blaze.
“We are trying to work with the incident command for these wildfires to do a real assessment,” Tucker said. “We see there are thousands of fish floating downstream, but we really are having a difficult time figuring out how bad it is.”
Dead fish have been seen as far as 20 miles from the source of the debris flow, the tribe’s news release said.
“The severity of the event is impossible to characterize until biologists can make direct observations in currently restricted areas,” the release said, adding it’s unknown how this might affect the fall migration of Chinook salmon,
which is just starting.
The fire, which has been burning in Siskiyou County for more than a week, has scorched more than 60,000 acres of land and was 30% contained as of Saturday morning as hot, dry and breezy conditions continued, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Its cause is under investigation, officials said.