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WILLOWS, Calif. - A firefighting crew traveled 8,000 miles from Saipan to assist with firefighting efforts in Northern California this summer, and worked on both the Carr and the Delta Fires. Their deployment began on Aug. 6.
The firefighters from the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI) work as a wildland hand crew. They are certified as a Type 2 U. S. Forest Service crew. They are one of 540 such crews that apply their skills to firefighting each year across the United States, according to a spokesperson for the Mendocino National Forest.
When working on the Carr Fire, squad boss trainee Linus Mizutani said, "All we could see on both sides of us was burned area. It was huge!" He said more than 15 of their islands would have fit within the fire area.
At the Delta Fire the crew worked with the Mendocino Hotshots, who taught them more about new fire ignition techniques used during night burns to improve containment lines.
Mizutani said, "It's one thing to read about it in books or watch it on YouTube, but feeling and smelling it, you won't forget that."
He said now they will go home and share the experiences and lessons learned with other firefighters who were not able to make the trip to Northern California.
The crew consists of firefighters from Saipan, Tinian and Rota. Sixtus Aquino, Saturnino Kaipat and Linus Mizutani all served in leadership roles as squad bosses or Type 1 firefighters. Squad bosses supervise up to six firefighters each.
Marlon Garde, Shelwyn Taisacan, Jamaal Mresbang, Mizutani and Kaipat also worked as sawyers on the fires, after completing a wildland power saws course offered by the Mendocino National Forest.
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Other NCMI firefighters on the crew were Kyoshi Kileleman, Mathew Dala Cruz, Joseph Sablan, Raccine Hizon, Lucio Kalen, Sammy Litulumar, Matthew Dueans and Stanley Santos.
Most of the crew has returned home to the Marianas. Garde, Kalen and Taisacan are working the rest of the 2018 fire season at the Los Padres National Forest.
The group received basic wildland firefighter training earlier this year in the islands under the U.S. Forest Service's Cooperative Fire Program. The mission is to work with Pacific Island partners in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Hawaii, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, American Samoa, and the Federated States of Micronesia to "increase capacity in the fire community," according to Forest Service officials.
Several mentors assisted the visiting fire crew this summer, including Crew Boss trainees Jeremy Lander, Mark Walls and James Blass. Other mentors included Crew Bosses Ricky Auspiro, Nate Goodchild, Lee Ibarra, Andy Reyes, Edgar Valencia, Chris Mallek and Jeremy Vance.
The crew from the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI) were able to reunited with the Feather River Hotshots, a firefighting elite group that they had worked with before. They also were able to work with firefighter David Palacios, who hails from the Marianas, and is currently working as a Northen California firefighter.
Last summer a crew came out from the CNMI to work on the Modoc and Six Rivers National Forests.
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