Fire engulfs acres in Papago


A cloud of smoke billows from a mountain fire on Saipan on Sunday, June 21. (KRIZEL TUAZON)

A brush fire torched several acres of vegetation in the Papago area yesterday, with the fire spreading to the Evergreen area.

The fire, which was called in to the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services at around 10:02am, was still going on as of 5pm press time yesterday.

DFEMS spokesperson Derric Gersonde said the grass fire was seen spreading to the Evergreen area, which called for activation of DFEMS’ Forestry’s strike team, which has been trained to handle this kind of wildfire.

Aside from Forestry, fire fighter and medical teams from the Kagman fire station, Capital Hill fire station, Susupe Fire Station, and Garapan fire station were also dispatched to the area.

Fortunately, there were no individuals that needed treatment at the scene, Gersonde said, and the fire did not reach any residential area.

He declined to say if the fire is due to the drought that remains much in effect throughout the CNMI, saying that the cause of the fire remains unknown.

However, Gersonde said, droughts can create ideal conditions for wildfires. The lack of rain and low humidity can dry out trees and vegetation, which could act as fuel, causing small grass fires to become greater.

According to residents who live near the area, the fire was still ongoing and lighting up a hill near Kannat Tabla.

The fire was last seen burning vegetation from the top of the hill, blowing clouds of ash down to Garapan.

Back in May 2019, a brush fire wiped out acres of vegetation that started in Evergreen and spread to Kannat Tabla hill.

At that time, DFEMS stationed teams on Mt. Tapochau, Kannat Tabla by the Bishop Estate, and another in Papago to monitor the fire’s movement because of its approach to the residential area in Kannat Tabla and Papago.

A string of brush fires has struck the CNMI since April with the islands experiencing and extended period of drought.

Exceptional drought

Extreme drought on Tinian and Saipan has been downgraded to exceptional due to another two weeks of below-adequate rainfall, according to the latest weather advisory from the National Weather Service.

Dry conditions will persist another couple of weeks across the CNMI, with relatively drier weather expected in Guam compared to the previous few weeks.

The CNMI has been stuck in a very dry trade-wind pattern for several months now. As assessed by the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands United States Drought Monitor team, the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport has had the third driest May, driest April-May, and March-May; second driest February-May and January-May; third driest December-May; and fourth driest November-May on record.

However, officials report water levels in the CNMI are still above thresholds for concern.

Drought conditions continue to improve across Guam where rainfall has been near-adequate over the last two weeks. A wet trade-wind pattern continues to provide steady showers to islands across the region. Disturbances embedded in the trades and a favorable upper-level wind pattern have spread steady showers and drought improvement across Yap and the northern islands of Chuuk state. Showers have been spottier across the northern Marshall Islands. Weak disturbances have provided showers for Guam recently, with above normal rainfall occurring during the month of May 2020.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores 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
Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.