Willow Creek Firesafe Council Locates Historical Cemetery Under Brush

By Allie Hostler, Two Rivers Tribune

Willow Creek Firesafe Council member Joe O’Hara lets out an agonizing scream as he grabs his leg. It was a major cramp.

His wife, Pat, also a member of the Firesafe Council, says it’s probably from overdoing it, something the seven core Council members are known to do in order to further the groups mission—to protect the community for catastrophic fire events.

A handful of Firesafe Council members in the upper end of the age bracket are volunteering hours that tally close to a full-time job and include laborious work. Their recent work to clear about 15 acres of private property bordering Clover Flat near Highway 96, is coming to an end, but the office work never stops. They travel, make phone calls, write grants—the works.

The project began under a $93,000 US Forest Service Grant to clear the property—to make it firesafe. It grew to include several acres of Klamath Trinity Joint Unified School District property near Trinity Valley Elementary School (TVES).

Although the school isn’t paying for the service, the Firesafe Council volunteered to help, soliciting the help of Humboldt County inmates who owe community service hours. So, last Friday, the inmates, clad in blue jeans and denim shirts worked a full day clearing several acres near TVES.

“We’re trying to concentrate especially on that area because of the school and the school children,” O’Hara said.

Willow Creek Firesafe Council President,  Barbara Darst said the project will help keep the school safe from fire as well as wildlife and feral cats. “They won’t have anywhere to hide anymore,” she said.

Over the past several years there have been mountain lion sightings at TVES as well as encounters with feral cat colonies.

The Willow Creek Firesafe Council also uncovered visible remains of an 1850s era cemetery on the KTJUSD property, believed to be that of the Bussell family. Darst said the Hoopa Tribe and the Bussell family were contacted. Some family members met with the Firesafe Council on Thursday afternoon and placed orange flagging tape on the discovered boundaries.

Although the Firesafe Council’s FLASH program is currently expended, they hope to receive enough funding to continue the program for one more year. The FLASH program provides funding for private landowners to clear brush on their property in order to make it more firesafe and accessible by fire personnel. The Council meets every first Thursday of the month at 7pm in the Ranch room at the Willow Creek USFS ranger station.

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