Siskiyou County hotels fill up fast with Lava Fire evacuees, tourists escaping pandemic

Skye Kinkade
Mount Shasta Herald
Map of the Lava Fire evacuation warning areas as of Monday (June 28, 2021).

With roughly 8,000 people displaced from their homes while the Lava Fire rages in Siskiyou County, those in evacuation zones find themselves with few convenient choices for housing because nearby hotels are full with visitors and fire crews.

Making the situation worse is the record-breaking heat, coupled with an influx of vacationers who are happy to visit the area after being cooped up for month due to the pandemic.

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While the Red Cross has opened a shelter in Yreka at Jackson Street School, many evacuees prefer to stay near their homes, either with family or in hotel rooms.

Siskiyou County hotels are booked

Lake Shastina resident Sara Montgomery’s homeowner’s insurance pays for hotel rooms in an evacuation situation like the one she was in on Wednesday. The closest hotel she can find is more than 80 miles away, to the south in Redding and to the north in Medford, Oregon.

Montgomery was happy to learn that Mount Shasta had canceled its downtown celebration that was slated to begin this evening and extend through Sunday, culminating with a fireworks show over Shastice Park.

"(I'm) grateful that they've taken all factors into consideration and here's to hoping the 2022 event is everything we've needed for the past couple of years," she said.

More:Fireworks banned in Mount Shasta: Hot temps, low moisture, Lava Fire contributed to decision

Montgomery's family of five was staying at her in-laws’ home in Weed until Wednesday. Also staying at the house is her brother-in-law, his wife and their two children, as well as four dogs.

They’ll be moving to a room at the Quality Inn in south Weed. The hotel accepts dogs, so they’ll all be together while they wait to return home when authorities lift evacuations. When that will happen is unknown as fire crews work to bring the fast-moving wildfire under control.

People parked their cars in the Grocery Outlet parking lot in South Weed Tuesday evening to watch smoke billow from the Lava Fire burning near Weed.

'We’re all hot, tired'

According to the Lake Shastina Fire Department chief Steve Pappas, no structures in the Lake Shastina Community Services District have been destroyed, but he cannot speak to other evacuated areas. He pointed out that the entire district remains under an evacuation order. On Wednesday, he said residents should plan for at least another 48 hours "and hope that it ends sooner."

Pappas thanked the residents for their patience, saying he "understands that it is not easy being evacuated from your home."

Melissa Blackinton, who works in Yreka for the USDA’s Farm Service Agency, has a similar story. She and her boyfriend were also evacuated from their home in Lake Shastina on Monday, and they’re staying with her parents in Weed. 

More:Mount Shasta's Fourth of July celebration canceled due to Lava, Salt fires

She said the evacuation itself was well organized, but the difficulties came afterward. “You forget things, and then you can’t get back in so you have to rebuy them,” she said.

Blackinton was also unable to find a hotel room anywhere nearby, and her parents don’t have air conditioning. 

“It’s infuriating,” she said of the lack of local lodging. “We’re all hot, tired and there’s just not enough room.”

More:Siskiyou homeowners face loss of homeowner's insurance due to fire risk

Nora Amaral, who was evacuated from her Carrick Addition home with her disabled brother, her husband and their two sons, have been staying at her sister-in-law’s Weed home.

“The worst part is worrying about your stuff, and not being able to get anything,” she said, adding she also stresses about possible looting.

Ironically, the Amarals just paid off their house, where they’ve lived since 1985, a week ago on Monday.

Skye Kinkade is the editor of the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers and the Siskiyou Daily News. She is a fourth generation Siskiyou County resident and has lived in Mount Shasta and Weed all her life.