CAMP PENDLETON, Calif -- --
In times of emergency, Marines have been known to get creative to keep those around them safe. On Sept. 30, 2020, as a vegetation fire forced the evacuations of schools, businesses, and hundreds of homes in the DeLuz Housing area of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, an unnamed Gunnery Sgt. with the Provost Marshall’s Office commandeered a city transit bus to bring children and residents to safety.
Although there were no students or staff at Mary Fay Elementary School at the time, there were 73 students at the Child Development Center that needed to be evacuated. Within an hour, this Gunnery Sgt., Security and Emergency Services Battalion police and fire, and NCIS agents ensured the safe transfer of each child to the evacuation rally point, allowing for those children to be reunited with their families.
This Gunnery Sgt. exhibited but one example of the brave, fast-thinking actions that were taken this day. The DeLuz Fire, which was located along DeLuz Road and sparked around 12:15 p.m., left the installation with minimal damage. This can most certainly be attributed to the fact that, within three hours of initial notification, Camp Pendleton Fire Department (CPFD) had it contained and began mop-up operations.
CPFD and assisting agencies were cleared by 7:18 p.m. and monitored the fire through the night. Their quick and heavy response, deploying all available units and requesting aid from CAL FIRE/San Diego County Fire Authority, allowed for residents to return to their homes within four hours after evacuating.
Multiple fire agencies responded with ground and air assets from base and through local communities. This included the response of multiple fire engines, fixed wing retardant drops and rotary wing bucket water drops.
The only property loss was one government vehicle, owned by Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
There were no reported structural losses, besides a damaged electrical transformer near the NCIS building and slight roof damage done to one of the homes. There are no injuries to our base personnel known at this time.
MCI-West’s G 3/5 stood up the Emergency Operations Center immediately upon initial notification of the fire and began coordination for the response, evacuation and notification to tenants via the ATHOC system.
With the ATHOC system, all government computers aboard Camp Pendleton received notifications of the fire and all pertinent information to keep everyone safe, and to keep the area clear for CPFD and assisting agencies to battle the fire.
Keeping the area clear was key to the success CPFD experienced. For this reason, Paige Field House Fitness Center was the designated rally point for all that had to evacuate. This building was close enough for evacuees to easily relocate, but far away enough to prevent congestion of the roads for emergency response vehicles.
Notably at the rally point, the installation saw more examples of base personnel getting creative to ensure the health and safety of those that were temporarily displaced.
The gym staff with Marine Corps Installations West – Camp Pendleton Headquarters and Support Battalion, with support from Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS) employees, provided water, shelter, and accountability for evacuees which included pets, people, and children.
Both MCCS and South West Regional Fleet Transport - Camp Pendleton buses aided the evacuation and repatriation efforts.
The Camp Pendleton Animal Shelter brought in pet kennels to keep the animals safe, watered and fed. The USO made the rounds handing out snacks and waters to families.
The precise and timely coordination of all available units aided in the successful containment of the DeLuz Fire as well as the successful evacuation of all personnel in the area. Alongside CPFD were base personnel that got creative to ensure the health and safety of all involved, allowing CPFD to focus on timely containment. All parties working in unison, knowing what needed to be done and ensuring it happened lead to the success experienced battling this fire.