CNMI team helps fight Calif. fire

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The CNMI has sent a team composed of 16 individuals to northern California to aid in the fight against the wildfire in what is referred to as the “August Complex” fire.

This was the third group that the CNMI has sent to the U.S. mainland since 2014 under the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Services Cooperative program to help put out the fires along the steep mountain terrains of Northern California.

The August Complex is a large wildfire that torched the coast range of Northern California, in Glenn, Lake, Mendocino, Tehama, and Trinity counties. The complex started as 38 separate fires that came together. The fire was started by lightning strike on Aug. 16, 2020.

The CNMI group consists of seven firefighters from the CNMI Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services and nine civilians. The team landed in California in September and will remain there as long as they are needed to extinguish the August Complex fire.

In a video posted by the U.S Forest Service featuring the Saipan crew, Albert Aldan said the experience has been great so far—”all the resources coming together and collaborating, and bringing everybody together to put this fire out.”

In the same video, Justin Mizutani said their greatest challenge so far has been the hike up the steep terrains. “Back home, our highest elevation is 1,200 [feet] and coming out here and being on this mountain at 6,300 [feet], hiking up on steep terrain is a challenge for the guys but, so far, we’ve been pushing through and getting stuff done,” he said.

Another great challenge for Devin Guerrero is waking up to the cold climate, which is the complete opposite of the humid weather on Saipan. “We’ve been waking up to low 30s. We’re waking up to the coldest weathers but we get the warmest greeting from the people here in California,” he said. The CNMI’s average temperature is usually in the 80s.

Despite the struggles, newest member Joseph Guerrero Jr. said it’s been great to learn the ways of firefighting from professional firefighters from different areas in the United States.

One such firefighter, Kareena Tulloch, who joined the Saipan crew, said the team from Saipan is a great one with many respectful individuals. “They’ve been so respectful toward us, as well as the forest. They’re a really good, respectful group of guys,” she said.

Vicente Moreno described the spirit of the Saipan team as “high spirited, yet humble” individuals. “I’d definitely say they’re really high in spirits, a lot of energy. The group as a whole is really humble,” he said.

Kimberly Bautista | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.

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