CNMI’s wildland fire crew returns

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The CNMI’s Wildland Fire Crew 36—a group of 18 individuals who were deployed by the CNMI government and the CNMI Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services to aid the California Department of Forestry in its battle against the ongoing California wildland fires—have returned home.

After a three-month long deployment, the CNMI saw the return of its Wildland Fire Crew 36 last month.

According to one of the crew members, Ralph Magofna, the journey was definitely an adventure and that the difference in this year’s deployment was that the CNMI crew was trusted to fight the fires head on, instead of at the rear like in previous years.

“Our deployment this year was pretty active and adventurous. For the previous years that the CNMI was deployed, we were in the rear of the fire. This year we were fortunate enough to be ahead of the fire and we were more active and aggressive,” he said.

With the newfound trust in the CNMI team, the crew expects a longer deployment next year due to the ongoing drought seen in the West Coast.

“Next year we’re looking at a possibly longer deployment due to the shortage of manpower California is facing and the drought that’s taking over the land,” Magofna said.

According to DFEMS fire chief Dennis Mendiola, although he was reluctant to send out the group given the shortage that the department was facing at the time, it all worked out for the best now that they’re back home safe and they gained years’ worth of experience within three months.

“Not only are they going out there to support the fight, they’re also going out there to gain experience and they bring that experience back here and that experience really helps us here in our dry season,” he said.

Of the 18 individuals who were deployed to help the California Forestry team, nine were firefighters and nine were civilians. The nine DFEMS firefighters include Ralphael L. Magofna, Linus L. Mizutani Jr., Sixtus L. Aquino, Saturno Kaipat, Justin Paul Mizutani, Christino George, Joseph Lifoifoi Jr., Stanley Zacrie Santos Jr., and Roman John P. Camacho.

The nine civilians include Vincent Agulto, Devin De Leon Guerrero, Ryan Garde, Joseph Guerrero, Sammy Litulumar, Henry Aguon, Frederick Henry Lisua Litulumar, and Adolfo Roppu.

Kimberly B. Esmores | 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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