NMI crew shares experience of fighting CA wildfires


The CNMI’s 15-man crew that recently arrived after a five-week deployment that saw them helping fight forest fires in California shared their experiences, saying their short stint taught them a lot of things.

“Our men gained experience, knowledge, and skills. And we are ready to use it the next time this opportunity arises,” said Martin Pangelinan.

On behalf of the crew, Pangelinan, 27, talked about their deployment during last Thursday’s proclamation signing that designated Oct. 7 to 8 as National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend and Oct. 8 to 14 as Fire Prevention Week.

All 15 are certified Type II U.S. Forest Service Handcrew Firefighters. Eight are CNMI firefighters and seven are civilians. Except for one from Rota, all are from Saipan. Their deployment took place from Aug. 3 to Sept. 8.

Pangelinan said that once they arrived and settled down in California, they met with the crew boss and the squad boss, who briefed them about what they were expected to do.

The following day, the crew immediately started their first assignment.

The crew did 10 days at the Modoc National Forest, then they were diverted to the Six Rivers National Forest for the remaining four days of their assignment.

After completing their first assignment, the crew was given two days of rest, then they went back to the fire line. The second assignment was a continuation of their deployment to the Six Rivers National Forest.

“While we were at the fires, we had the opportunity to mop up, which means to make the site of the fire safe and reduce residual smoke after the fire has been controlled by removing burning material along or near the control line,” Pangelinan said.

He said they had the chance to communicate over radios, attend morning briefings, gather information and brief the crew on daily objectives, work on line construction, and read maps and compasses. Pangelinan said they also read the weather, used fire technology such as GPS, and worked with dozers, water tenders, engines, and chippers.

Two members of the crew had the opportunity to work on a firefighter task book.

“Throughout the deployment, our men stayed positive, kept morale high, watched out for each other, and ensured that no injuries or other related issues were sustained,” Pangelinan said.

He said many units and resources reached out to the CNMI crew and asked if there was anyone interested in becoming employed by the Forest Service next year. Pangelinan said some crewmembers have expressed an interest in that opportunity.

“They were impressed with our performance,” he added.

Pangelinan thanked the Forest Service in California and some people, including Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services Commissioner Claudio Norita, for giving them opportunity to expand their skills and knowledge in containing wildland fires in California.

Pangelinan had fought forest fires for eight years in southern California.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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