A fire has destroyed part of the Hoopa Valley Tribe's timber facility, including its administrative building and repair shop and some oil drums, equipment and vehicles (among them a water tender and vehicles containing diesel used to refuel bulldozers, saws and other logging equipment).
The fire started yesterday afternoon in "light, flashy fields" of dry grass alongside Marshall Lane behind Hoopa Forest Industries, said incident commander Rod Mendes, who is director of the tribe's Office of Emergency Services, by phone today. Someone called his office around 3:45 p.m. yesterday to report it. Mendes said the fire spread quickly to the timber firm's structures and equipment. Witnesses reported explosions and black sticky plumes as fuel ignited.
State, federal and tribal fire departments and local and tribal volunteer fire fighters – by ground and air – finally doused the blaze, which burned five acres. There were no injuries, and 10 homes were saved, Mendes said.
Many lives might have been lost had a 2,500-gallon diesel tanker -- caught in the fire -- exploded, added Hoopa Valley Tribe Vice Chairman Byron Nelson, Jr, on the phone along with Mendes. Luckily, he said, as the tanker heated up it vented itself, and then fire fighters moved in to cool it off with water.
Mendes said the fire's cause is under investigation. He added that "it's a big loss for the tribe" but the extent of that loss hasn't yet been calculated.
According to the tribe's website, Hoopa Forest Industries "harvests roughly 12 million board feet, net conifer volume annually; providing the Hoopa Valley Tribe approximately $4 to $6 million in revenue depending on the timber market." And it employs 35-40 tribal members.
"It's not going to shut our logging operation down," Nelson said. He said the tribe is looking for a place to relocate the administrative operations and is considering renting equipment.