MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Firefighters with the Camp Pendleton Fire Department (CPFD) were called upon to assist with the state’s biggest fire in its history, the Mendocino Complex Fire, in Mendocino County, California.
The CPFD joined numerous firefighting agencies, to include the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), U.S. Forest Service and many other departments from neighboring states as part of a mutual aid agreement to combat the fire by providing personnel to serve in supervisory positions and on the ground, directly engaging the fire.
“The coordinator I was working for was no longer requesting engines, so [CPFD] decided to support the efforts with personnel,” said Jeff Cunliffe-Owen, assistant fire chief, CPFD. “We served as division supervisors, radio operators, heavy equipment bosses; a lot of our guys went directly as overhead support to the firefighting effort out there.”
Reaching the peak amount of approximately 4,000 firefighters, the Mendocino Complex Fire required a multitude of varying and critical skill sets to gain control. Jason Swift, a firefighter with Fire Station 6, CPFD, filled one of those critical roles while he was deployed in support of the blaze.
“I filled the position of radio communications in the division I was assigned to,” said Swift. “My job was to establish communications for the firefighters on the fire line, as well as the general operations for the duration of the fire.”
Swift is one of several firefighters from CPFD who are working in unison with other state agencies to effectively battle the massive fire, which burned more than 450,000 acres. Though this effort mandated the teamwork of several thousand men and women from different agencies, creating a cohesive environment did not require much effort.
“We conducted business entirely the same; the only difference was the patch on our uniform,” Swift said. “When we need help, we call on our brother agencies. When we can come together in partnership, it makes our efforts to put out the fire even better.”
The mutual aid agreement exists between the base and its surrounding partners. It affords the CPFD the ability to react when other fire stations and departments find themselves in overwhelming situations. This is one example of how Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton emphasizes the importance of supporting our surrounding communities, both locally and across the state, when in need.
“We never know when we’re going to need help fighting a fire, so it’s important we take care of the people who, in turn, will take care of us,” said Cunliffe-Owen.
According to a CAL FIRE incident report, as of August 30, 2018, the Mendocino Complex Fire has taken the life of one firefighter and injured three others, destroyed 280 structures, and burned approximately 460,000 acres. The fire has reached 93% containment and is expected to be fully contained by early September. For updates on the status of the fire, follow CAL FIRE and MCB Camp Pendleton on Twitter.