The main challenge the CNMI Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services faced this year were wildland fires.
Commissioner Clyde Norita of the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services highlighted this during an interview at the Western Pacific Fire Chiefs Conference last Wednesday at the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan.
“We’ve been pretty lucky; I will tell you that our only concern this year was the wildland fire,” he said.
“Lucky” because the CNMI wildland fire season does not coincide with the international wildland fire season.
“Our fire season for wildland fire is different from the international wildland fire. We start in March and end in around June and the international wildland fire starts in June and ends in about November. …Our wildland fire team is trained by the U.S. Forest Service so we are trained to handle fires like that,” said Norita.
A handful of CNMI’s firefighters are deployed to the U.S. mainland each year to help combat wildland fire.
Following Yutu, Norita said that the CNMI faced a couple of wildland fires as a result of the mass amount of green debris still littering the island.
According to Norita, one of the most recent was the brush fire in As Gonno just a week ago. Norita said the fire was at a green debris dumping area and no homes or individuals were injured or were in danger during the incident.
“It was just green debris. To us, and the company commander who was at the scene, there was no reason to fight this fire. It’s isolated, it’s not near any neighborhood, and it’s green debris so we just let it burn and his decision was right…we shouldn’t have to waste water, especially if water is tight,” he said.
Another recent fire-related incident in the CNMI was when the abandoned Pretty Market building in Garapan went up in flames over a month ago.
A number of homes were damaged as a result of the fire and, according to Norita, the cause of the fire has yet to be determined.
“Our investigative team is still working on it but we’ve got witnesses and we’ve already interviewed them. I want to leave it at that. …When Pretty Market burned, the challenge was that the hydrants were not working; there was no water because there was no power to pump the water out. ….What we had in place that day was…four tanker trucks filled with water,” he said.