Pacific Island firefighting crew heads home

Release Date: Sep 8, 2017  

Contact(s): Punky Moore

WILLOWS, Calif.; Sept. 8, 2017 – There are 541 crews currently assigned to wildland fires across the western U.S. traveling to incidents, working long, hot, arduous days, and resting a few days before doing it all over again. One of these crews recently traveled home approximately 8,000 miles after a month of firefighting in California.

In early August, a 15-member Saipan crew from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) arrived in California and was assigned to the July Complex, a series of lightning caused wildfires on the Modoc National Forest.  The crew spent two weeks working on the fireline, then received days off before returning to firefighting on the Six Rivers National Forest.

Through the U.S. Forest Service’s Cooperative Fire Program, resources such as the CNMI crew can be ordered to assist with wildfires on the mainland. The mission of this program is to work with our Pacific partners to increase capability in the fire community. These partners include: Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Hawaii, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Republic of Palau, American Samoa, and the Federated States of Micronesia.

This program also sends instructors from the mainland to the islands to provide a variety of wildland fire training courses. Graduates from the basic wildland fire training are chosen, through a competitive process, to serve on the crew each season. When the CNMI crew is ordered to the U.S. to assist with wildfires, instructors may have the opportunity to serve on the crew as a senior firefighter or crew boss.

Victor Espinoza, a crew boss with the Sequoia National Forest said, “I’ve really enjoyed working with this crew. They are eager to learn and have a very strong family culture, which makes it easier for them to work together as a team.  Forest Service employees that are working with the crew are learning as much from the crew, as they are learning from us.”

The crew was hosted by the Mendocino National Forest during its stay in the U.S. Thanks to the Saipan crew members for their assistance during this long, challenging fire season. We look forward to their return.