Wildfire forces GMS to evacuate students


Students of Green Meadow School in Chalan Kiya were sent home after a wildfire broke out a few hundred meters from the school yesterday.

According to GMS administrative staff Loida Mallari, students in all grade levels were sent home around 4pm yesterday because of the thick dark smoke that was being blown into the school grounds.

Mallari said that GMS principal Milagros Songcuan gave the order to call the students’ parents to pick up their children because they were fearful of any asthma attacks that could happen.

The directive was issued after police visited the school and informed the GMS administration of the possible threat the fire poses to the school.

The fire was still uncontained as of 4pm yesterday and Mallari said that they were fearful that the fire would make its way to the school. The fire was about 300 to 400 meters away from school grounds.

Mallari said that the fire started in the forest near the RNV Construction’s barracks that is right next to the school.

Saipan Tribune tried to reach out to the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services; as of 5:30pm yesterday, DFEMS has yet to issue a statement. DFEMS has also yet to release the exact number of wildfires the CNMI has had since January.

Wildfires have been rampant in the CNMI and, according to the National Weather Service, it is attributed to the current drought being felt in the CNMI and other parts of Micronesia.

“Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and the far Northern Islands will experience drought impacts during the coming weeks. In particular for Saipan, the drawdown of fresh water resources could be a problem in the next few weeks to months. Vegetation will dry out and a severe wildfire season could develop, especially where debris from [Super] Typhoon Yutu remains,” NWS said.

NWS has extended its notice of anticipated dry weather for the CNMI.

Rainfall has reportedly diminished over the Commonwealth since January.

NWS believes that the post-El Niño dry weather will likely continue through the spring of 2019. The northern Marshall Islands north of Majuro, the CNMI, and other areas such as Yap State and the Republic of Palau have received much less than normal rainfall over the past few months. The drought conditions over the Mariana Islands have worsened and that trend will continue through the coming weeks. Saipan and Tinian in particular will suffer from very dry weather.

Both Saipan and Tinian received less than an inch of rainfall in the month of March. Rota received 1.99 inches of rain at the airport, but likely much less over other parts of the island. Showers have been spotty and brief. Rainfall has been abnormally low over the Commonwealth since January. Rainfall will continue to be below normal over the region from April into May.

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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