NORTH FORK, California (KSEE) — Around 250 U.S. Sailors and Marines from Camp Pendleton battled the northern portion of the Creek Fire on Tuesday.
This was the crew’s official first day on the fire line. They traveled from San Diego to the Central Valley this weekend.
The U.S. Marines from Camp Pendleton haven’t fought a wildfire for 20 years. In 2000, Marines were sent to Salmon, Idaho.
The marines and sailors had about five days of training before they got boots on the ground near North Fork.
“We like to say in the Marine Corps ‘any climb any place,” said Fresno native and U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Juan Guillen.
The crews split up and focused on specific areas. They used picks and shovels to dig up potentially dangerous hot spots.
“If we see smoke, ash, or hot spots,” said Marine Jack Slater. “We use our bare hands to feel that to see if it is too hot and could cause a potential fire to flame up again. So what we do there is we dig out space, let the oxygen heat it up, and then smear it in the dirt to make sure it is cold.”
Slater is stationed in San Diego but originally from Maryland. Guillen said the crew has roots across the nation.
“From New York, Montana, San Diego County, and locals like me from Fresno,” said Guillen.
Guillen saddened to see the destruction.
“The property, the public lands,” said Guillen. “It is devastating but we are committed to doing our best to helping this effort and we are thankful to be out here and we want to see this turned around as quickly as possible.”
The marines and sailors are available to help for the next month.
This is the seventh time Marines from Camp Pendleton have been sent to wildfires over the years. The first was in 1988 for the Yellowstone fires.