McCloud area residents worry about escape routes after Pilgrim Creek Road is closed by mudflow

Shareen Strauss
Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers
McCloud Community Services District is digging out Mud Creek as flooding has caused over 20 feet of mud buildup that is threatening the town's Elk Spring pipeline that is suspended above the creek. If they lose this pipeline, the community will not have enough sustainable water.

More than 1,000 people who live off the grid in the McCloud area are demanding a second way to get in and out of the Mt. Shasta Forest Subdivision, especially in light of recent wildfires and mudflow from Mt. Shasta.

The main access into Mt. Shasta Forest Subdivision on Pilgrim Creek Road has been closed due to the flooding of Mud Creek with debris from the Konwakiton glacier. This leaves only one access route from Highway 89 into the area on Esperanza Road, which is unpaved.

After two fires in the area – the Bradley and the Antelope fires – residents have filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Forestry to open and maintain Pilgrim Creek Road for a second emergency access in case of emergencies, but U.S. Forest Service Regional Ranger Carolyn Napper said that section of Pilgrim Creek Road is permanently closed.

"To establish a channel and haul away the debris would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and the flooding will happen again until we find a permanent solution. Opening Pilgrim Creek Road up would be putting people's lives at risk," Napper said.

To accommodate increased traffic on Esperanza, the U.S. Forest Service has instead created a 20-foot fire break clearance along the road to lessen the fire danger and is creating a rock base on the road. 

Shasta Forest Property Homeowners Association Subdivision resident Ron Howard said the purpose of the petition is to draw awareness. "The Paradise fire, with one way for both the emergency vehicles coming in and the residents trying to get out, became a death trap with over 80 people dying. We don't want to have that happen here," he said.

McCloud Fire Chief Charlie Miller said even if Pilgrim Creek Road was cleared, it wouldn't matter if there was a fire coming from the east side, since it would cut off that route. To help aid in better response time, Miller is having the department's 1976 Mack Fire Engine 1715 housed in the Shasta Forest Property Homeowners Association Subdivision. There are volunteer firefighters that live there who can man the truck in an emergency. 

The McCloud Services District Board has also accepted a SAFE grant from FEMA, which will provide staffing for adequate fire and rescue response by staffing the volunteer fire department with a paid EMT position. 

Mudflow affects water system, too

The melting of the glacier, which started in June, has also threatened McCloud's water supply line as the Mud Creek riverbed is filled with silt and mud.

The McCloud Community Services District hired a back loader, and in a two-week period, moved 70,000 tons of material that has built up in the river bed at the pipeline.

MCSD's General Manager Amos McAbier said he's aware that this is a temporary solution after one night of rain, more silt and mud washed down the creek bed added back three more feet of debris.