Saturday, December 10, 2022

Wildfire Destroys a Piece of Black History in Rural California.

 

 

 

When the Mill fire ripped through Weed, Calif., just before Labor Day weekend, the hardest-hit area was a historically Black neighborhood that dates back nearly a century.

 

Credit...Brian L. Frank for The New York Times

 

By Kellen Browning

  • Oct. 7, 2022

WEED, Calif. — The gray rubble appears suddenly on both sides of the highway winding through this small Northern California town, as houses give way to a landscape of charred wreckage and the remains of homes, bleached white by wildfire.

The devastation stretches for blocks. Metal skeletons of cars and blackened trees indicate where properties once stood in the shadow of Mount Shasta.

This neighborhood, Lincoln Heights, was once the thriving and vibrant home of a Black community — a rare sight in predominantly white, rural Siskiyou County, which hugs the Oregon border. Black laborers moved here from Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas to work at a lumber mill in the 1920s, and their descendants continued to live in houses on the outskirts of town, passed down through generations.

For decades, the mill next to Lincoln Heights offered opportunity and hope for those seeking a job and a better life. Now, residents see it as a symbol of the neighborhood’s destruction. Roseburg Forest Products, the mill’s owner, has said it is investigating whether hot ash in its facility started the Mill fire, which ripped through Lincoln Heights before exploding to 4,000 acres in early September. In Weed, the Mill fire consumed most of Lincoln Heights, killing two people and destroying nearly 60 homes. The park that served as a gathering place is all that remains of the eastern side of the neighborhood.

“You can build that house back. But that home is a most special place,” said Andrew Greene, 84, who raised his children in Lincoln Heights. “It’s a place of culture, it’s a place of growth, it’s a place of remembrance and most of all it’s a place of love.”

The rapid blaze was the latest in a series of fires in California that, as the climate warms, have leveled neighborhoods like Coffey Park in Santa Rosa, or towns like Paradise and Greenville. That devastation has forced wildfire victims to choose between rebuilding or starting life anew elsewhere.

 

The rapid blaze was the latest in a series of fires in California that, as the climate warms, have leveled neighborhoods like Coffey Park in Santa Rosa, or towns like Paradise and Greenville. That devastation has forced wildfire victims to choose between rebuilding or starting life anew elsewhere.

 

The hints of life from before the fire are few in Lincoln Heights. A child’s bicycle abandoned on the side of the road. A pocket watch peeking through debris. At one property, atop porch steps that lead nowhere, sits a vase of fresh flowers as a memorial.

 Many residents have pledged to rebuild. But they worry that enough of their neighbors will flee to other cities for the spirit of the old neighborhood to be lost for good.

In the 1920s, hundreds of Black Southerners made the journey to rural Northern California, lured by the promise of employment, for $3.60 a day, at the sawmill owned by the Long-Bell Lumber Company, which had just closed two mills in Louisiana as it searched for untouched forests out west.

The company lent workers the train fare and provided them with wooden houses amid the aspens and pines in a small place called Weed. It was a company-owned, segregated town, and Black mill workers and their families were required to live on the northern outskirts. That neighborhood was known as the Quarters and, later, Lincoln Heights……….

Read more here:   https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/07/us/california-lincoln-heights-wildfire.html

 

Black Emergency Managers Association International
Washington, D.C.


 

bEMA International

Cooperation, Collaboration, Communication, Coordination, Community engagement, and  Partnering (C5&P)

 

A 501 (c) 3 organization

 

 

 

 

 

 


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