Robbers Fire began on July 11 and was reported at 90 percent containment as of July 20 by the Auburn Journal. While the newspaper says only one home and four outbuildings were lost as a result of this wildfire, Native Americans are concerned that in the battle to contain the blaze, firefighters may have inadvertently damaged some sacred sites.
Because bulldozer lines were cut to stop the wildfire, artifacts could have been unearthed in the process in the canyons of Colfax and Foresthill, California where the United Auburn Indian’s ancestors called home.
“The neighborhood consists of different villages and those villages span anywhere from eight to 10,000 years all the way to the present,” Marcos Guerrero, a tribal historic preservation officer for the United Auburn Indians, explained to KCRA-TV. “The preferred alternative for the tribe is to rebury anything they find back in place because that’s where it came from and that’s where they would like to keep it.”
A Cal Fire archaeologist has been working with tribal leaders to create an action plan to return the sites to their natural state. The Auburn Rancheria and Cal Fire are also working to keep the sites secret to prevent what KCRA called “relic hunters” from combing the area.
An arrest was also made in connection to the fire. Bryon Craig Mason, 28, of Sacramento, California, was arrested July 20 and charged with a single count of unlawfully and recklessly causing a fire, reported the Auburn Journal. Not much was being released about how the fire was started, just that a pyrotechnic device was used.
“We received outstanding support from the public and a number of tips early on,” Cal Fire Unit Chief Brad Harris told the Journal. “We feel it’s a very strong case.”
If convicted, Mason could face anywhere from two to seven years in prison.
KCRA reports on the damage to the sacred sites: