MWSS-373 Builds Fire Breaks Around Palomar Observatory
As Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallions flew through the air
fighting the devastating wildfires of San Diego last week, a
handful of wing Marines assisted state and federal firefighters
battling blazes on the ground.
Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 373, Marine Wing
Support Group 37, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing lent a hand to the
California Department of Forestry and Fire (CAL FIRE) Monday,
creating fire breaks around the Palomar Mountain Observatory. The
36 Marines, stationed aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, CA,
worked with their firefighting counterparts to save the area from
the wildfires burning through Southern California.
"The observatory is a very important site for the astronomical
industry here," said David Jansen, a forestry assistant for CAL
FIRE. "At this time the fire is not a threat, but we are creating a
fuel break around the exterior, making a safe zone in case the fire
does come over this direction."
With no known record of any fires in the area for more than 100
years, CAL FIRE officials deemed the spot dangerously susceptible
to fire and in need of clearing.
The 150 foot fuel break is sufficient to keep this brush from
burning, according to Jansen. With 19 pieces of heavy equipment
from humvees to giant earth-moving bulldozers on the mountain, the
Marines plowed earth, trees and shrub assuring that the observatory
would have a safe fuel break to slow down an oncoming fire.
"It’s great to see that civilian and military agencies can
work together to contain a fire and properly handle a natural
disaster," said Staff Sgt. Michael Avila, staff noncommissioned
officer-in-charge of the project. "We don’t always have an
opportunity to move earth while in the rear so this provides us
with training and an opportunity to help San Diego out."
Upon completion of the operation, the Marines of MWSS-373 will
return to the air station and prepare for their upcoming deployment
to the Al Anbar Province of Iraq.
"The Marines helping us is a very big deal," said Jansen. "We
have been getting things done quickly that we have tried getting
done for a long time. The outfit we are working with is cooperating
and doing a great job. They are asking what to do and getting the
job done. We are very thankful for their help."
As the weather breaks and the flames and smoke clear, the
Marines and sailors in the ground and aviation units of 3rd MAW
continue to stand side-by-side with the men and women who dedicate
their lives to fighting wildfires.
(Aero-News salutes Cpl. Brandon L. Roach, MCAS