Marines and sailors who helped fight the recent Northern California wildfires returned to the San Diego region this week after a month on the fire lines.
The group arrived at Camp Pendleton on Tuesday aboard seven buses, according to reporting by the Orange County Register, that was featured on Military.com.
The 7th Engineer Support Battalion left the North County base Sept. 19. They were called in to help firefighters battle first the Creek Fire, near Fresno, and then the Complex Fire, near the Mendocino National Forest, according to the report.
“This has opened my eyes to how challenging the firefighter job is when it comes to the physical demands expected on a daily basis, day after day, for long hours at a time,” Staff Sgt. Alexander Krieger, a combat engineer, told the Register.
They weren’t the only military personnel lending their hands to the effort – 200 Army soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington took part as well, the Register reported.
Though Camp Pendleton personnel have confronted fires on base, units are rarely called to fight wildfires on civilian lands, the report noted.
A Camp Pendleton unit helped firefighters in Idaho 20 years ago. According to the report, since 1988, defense officials have offered military support for firefighting 39 times.
The Marines in the support battalion typically are responsible for construction and maintenance of buildings, roads and power sources, even in combat.
To prepare to fight fires, according to the report, they received two days of training at Camp Pendleton from professionals assigned to the Bureau of Land Management.
Once they joined firefighters, they helped dig lines, watched out for hot spots and removed trees, sometimes for 12 hours a day.
“The junior Marines out here, they’re motivated to do work,” Shane Olpin, a military liaison for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forestry Service, said, according to the report. “It’s a call-to-service in a different level.”
– Staff reports