Supporting Indigenous-led fire management

The 2020 wildfire season was a record-setting one for the state of California and the United States as a whole. The fires were California’s most destructive on record, burning 4.2 million acres, killing at least 31 people and destroying thousands of structures.

A study found that the 2020 fires put twice as much greenhouse gas emissions into the air as California’s reductions in those same gases over nearly 20 years. This is indicative of a vicious cycle: As climate change contributes to increased wildfire activity in the western United States, the wildfires are adding to the greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

In 2021, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy awarded $250,000 to Humboldt Area Foundation to subgrant to local organizations serving the most marginalized populations in their four-county service area significantly affected by 2020 California wildfires.

Local Indigenous communities are most disproportionately affected by wildfires and have limited access to resources. With CDP funding, Humboldt Area Foundation awarded the Hoopa Valley Tribe a grant to support Indigenous-led fire management and cultural burns. The grant enabled the Hoopa Fire Department to remove more than 1,000 acres of hazardous fuels around homes and high-fire occurrence areas, setting the community up for a streamlined maintenance program.

The video below from the Hoopa Fire Department explores how traditional fire burning and cultural burns help California prevent major fires. It shows how Hoopa Valley Tribe is implementing and enforcing disaster risk reduction and mitigation methods during recovery from recent fires. The story is told by Hupa culture keepers who have firsthand accounts of their relationship to fire.

Indigenous communities are some of the best environmental stewards. They play a critical role in protecting the planet’s biodiversity and the overall health of ecosystems. Indigenous peoples interpret and react to the impacts of climate change in creative ways, drawing on traditional knowledge to find solutions that may help society at large.

CDP is proud to support Humboldt Area Foundation’s efforts to help Indigenous communities recover from and prevent devastating wildfires.

(Photo credit: Hoopa Fire Department)