O’NEALS, California (KSEE) — Hundreds of Marines and sailors are joining the fight against the Creek Fire to help relieve crews who have been on the front lines for the last two weeks.
Meanwhile, the Fresno County mountain communities that have been impacted by this fire rallied together to help each other on the road to recovery.
The Creek Fire continued to grow Saturday, growing to nearly 272,000 acres, per CAL FIRE’s latest report. Crews now have it 25% contained.
The military manpower came at the request of the National Interagency Fire Center, in support of the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region. In total, 250 Marines and sailors will be assigned to a variety of roles — from the fire’s front lines to offering medical support.
They still will have a couple more days of training before they’re sent up to fight the fire.
At Minarets High School, the incident command for the Madera County side of the fire, command staff welcomed the military personnel Saturday. But for one of the Marines, it was a welcome home.
“This means a lot to us, especially for me,” said Master Sgt. Juan Guillen, who is part of the Marine Corps’ 7th Engineer Support Battalion. “I’m from this area, I’m from Fresno, California.”
Guillen has grown up camping where the Creek Fire has burned.
“It just gives us more motivation, more drive to really do our best with all the training that these professionals are providing to these Marines and sailors,” he said.
Aside from their assigned duties, the most important the military personnel will be providing is relief for other firefighters.
“These Marines and sailors out here will allow us and our crews to get a bit more rest. It’s going to be a long season,” said Robert Baird, Regional Fire and Aviation Director for the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region.
The community rallying together
Residents impacted by the Creek Fire in Fresno County gathered in Prather on Saturday for the first time since having to evacuate. Together they organized a one stop resource fair, which included free groceries.
Many businesses also showed up, introducing their fundraisers to help those who lost their homes. Many of them had been evacuated themselves and know people who have lost everything.
“We feel it’s really important as locals being so close to it, that we really make sure the fundraiser goes where it’s supposed to go,” said Kirsten Casey, owner of the jewelry business Blue Lotus.
Casey is partnering with another local business, Get Deerty, to sell jewelry and clothing with a Creek Fire design to raise funds.
Heather Lawson, co-owner of Get Deerty and the one who made the design, said she knows the mountain communities will definitely get through this disaster together.
“It’s really the communities coming together and supporting each other, that’s really what it takes,” Lawson said.
For more information on Get Deerty and Blue Lotus’ fundraiser, you can click here.