Faleomavaega commends local firefighters after fighting wildfires in Northern Calif

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Faleomavaega on Tuesday offered his congratulations and appreciation to the 16-member National Park Service (NPS) firefighting crew from American Samoa who returned home last night after 30 days of fighting wildfires in Northern California.

The crew departed American Samoa on August 13th and journeyed to Redding, California where they joined forces with the U.S. Forest Service – Redding “Hotshot” Crew, an elite wild land fire crew trained specifically to undertake the most difficult, dangerous, and stressful assignments. The American Samoa crew comprised of members of the community, including employees from NPS, the local government, and local businesses, paired up with four members of the Californian team to make up the standard 20-member fire crew. Their mission was coordinated in partnership with the Department of the Interior Northern California Coordination Center.

During their mission, the American Samoa team worked eight different fires, including fire line construction, mop-up, and fire line repair. The last fire on their mission was an initial attack on a fire that they along with the Redding Hotshot Crew were instrumental in stopping.  They accomplished this mission by constructing and holding a key piece of fire line under heavy fire conditions.

In order to qualify for the NPS crew, firefighters completed pre-requisite firefighting courses through the National Park of American Samoa’s annual certification training course for both park employees and local members of the community. They were then trained by the NPS through the assistance of Pacific Island Fire Management Officer Joe Molhoek.

The National Park of American Samoa fire crew was established in 2000. Since then, NPS has sent out fire crews from American Samoa to combat fires 8 out of 9 years between 2000 and 2008. The last mission took place in 2008 until this most recent deployment on August 13, 2012. Firefighters are on call year-round awaiting orders by the NPS to assist with fires nationwide.

 “I would like to extend my congratulations and sincere gratitude to all of our brave firefighters of the National Park of American Samoa fire crew for their sacrifice and selfless act of service. I thank them for taking time out of their personal lives and responsibilities to attend to the needs of others. Their heroic efforts are something that all Samoans can be proud of and I thank them for representing our people admirably,” Faleomavaega stated.

“I would also like to extend my appreciation to all who made this mission possible, including Pacific Island Fire Management Officer Joe Molhoek and DOI Emergency Operations Coordinator Ken Hood who trained and managed the American Samoa team in their mission. I also extend my appreciation to Acting Superintendent for the National Park of American Samoa, Steve Gibbons, and NPS Public Information Officer Michael Larson for sharing with my office the fire crew’s great achievements in Northern California,” Faleomavaega concluded.

The following is a list of the men who represented American Samoa in the fight against Northern California’s wildfires.

Members of the NPS Firefighting Crew

Tominiko Fialua (NPS)

Tamafaiga Sagapolutele (NPS)

Kitiona Osotonu (NPS)

Seugatalatasi Toloa (NPS)

Anthony Wyberski (NPS)

Salamanesa Eliu (NPS)

Ikenasio Sagaga (NPS)

Venisala Sopoaga (ASG)

Foimai To (ASG)

Tau Thompson (ASG)

Puipui Faiva (ASG)

Emerson Taiepisi (ASG)

Faafetai Suani (McDonald’s Corporation)

Maloloto Faleafaga

Pouono Lomiga

Lafaele Suafoa

Source: Media release, Cong. Faleomavaega’s Office


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