Tens of Thousands of Fish Dead in California’s Klamath River After McKinney Fire Washes Ash, Mud, and Debris Into Water

The McKinney Fire burning in the area near the Klamath River in northern California killed tens of thousands of fish, because of a debris flow that made oxygen levels in the river plummet. (Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources/The Associated Press)

Tens of thousands of fish are dead in California’s Klamath River after ash, mud and other debris from the McKinney Fire washed into the water, contaminating it.

It’s a sight that deeply saddens Kenneth Brink, a member of the Karuk Tribe and field supervisor for its fisheries.

“It is vile. So sad,” he told As It Happens guest host Paul Hunter. “That’s our fish down there, just rotting.”

The fish kill was a blow for the Karuk and Yurok tribes — both Indigenous peoples based in California — who have been fighting for years to protect fragile populations of salmon in the Klamath River.

“When I go down there, it looks like something out of a war zone, you know? Like someone … blew up the whole river,” said Brink.

“You see the movies where they [use] dynamite and all the fish come bubbling up, floating. That’s what it looks like — they’re just all floating there dead.”

The McKinney Fire, which began on July 29, has so far burned more than 233 square kilometres in the Klamath National Forest, killing four people in the hamlet of Klamath River and reducing many homes and businesses to ash.

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