CNMI/USA – The main challenge the CNMI Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services faced this year were wildland fires.
This was learned during the annual Western Pacific Fire Chiefs Conference last Wednesday at the Hibiscus Hall of the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan.
DFEMS Commissioner Clyde Norita said the department has been “pretty lucky” in that, aside from wildland fires, they have been able to handle pretty much all of the challenges that came DFEMS’ way this year.
Norita explained that the CNMI is lucky because the CNMI wildland fire season does not coincide with the international wildland fire season.
A handful of the CNMI’s firefighters are usually deployed to the U.S. mainland yearly to assist in the fight against wildland fire.
“Our fire season for wildland fire is different from the international wildland fire. We start in March and end around June and the international wildland fire starts in June and ends 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.
Following Yutu, Norita said 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 wildland fires seen in the CNMI was the brush fire in As Gonno just a week ago. Norita said that the fire was at the As Gonno green debris dumping area and no homes or individuals were injured or were in danger during the incident.
“It was just the 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 seen in the CNMI was the burning of the abandoned Pretty Market building in Garapan over a month ago.
A number of homes were damaged as a result of that 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. …Pretty Market, when it 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.