NAVAL STATION GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (NNS) -- More than 250 Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (NSGB) personnel consisting of firefighters, base security and coast guardsmen responded to a wildfire on the installation, Feb. 21-22, that burned approximately 1,700 acres of the base.
Their efforts included fighting the fire, maintaining security, helping with the evacuation of six housing areas, and manning the emergency operations center to ensure command and control of the situation at all times.
Members of the of the Cuban Frontier Brigade also responded, fighting the fire alongside NSGB firefighters and emergency personnel, resulting in no damage to facilities or personnel.
NSGB Fire Chief David Rose and his team of fire inspectors, assistant chiefs and 90 Jamaican firefighters took part in the operation.
"I could not be more proud of the entire department," said Rose. Everyone knew what needed to be done and they performed exceptionally."
The two days of fires occurred in some of the most remote areas of the base leading out to the Northeast Gate and along the fence line into remote areas of the base, with high, rapidly changing winds; thick, dry vegetation; rough terrain; and limited roads to the inaccessible areas making a crisis situation all the more difficult.
"The entire staff has training in wildland firefighting and many have advanced wildland training and certifications," said Rose.
According to assistant security officer Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brian Rice, safety was a very important aspect of command and control in situations like this.
"In any emergency, we all want to make it back to our job or home," said Rice. "It's always difficult to get people to understand that we are restricting access or evacuating them for their own safety."
Rice added that no matter how important you feel getting where you're going is, listening to security and following their directions will ensure you will be able to see your family after the crisis has passed.
During the incident, fire and emergency services were fighting five different fires at one time.
"The base came together for this event," said Rose. "Every agency that was needed stepped up with personnel and resources. All these agencies deserve more credit for their efforts in mitigating this event."
Rice added that the Fire Department did the brunt of the work and were out there for over 48 hours.
"All the firefighters did a heck of a job and never complained," said Rice.
Rice said that security was there to support the firefighters in their efforts and that he hopes they made their jobs easier.
During the height of the second day of fire, Capt. David Culpepper, NSGB's commanding officer, went live on Radio GTMO to give updates of what was happening on base and at 8 p.m. Thursday went live with his final update of the day's events.
"I want to give a big thanks to everybody that has been involved out in fighting the fire and supporting the firefighters out there," said Culpepper. "My thanks to everybody out there, outstanding job from everyone here in Guantanamo Bay."
Culpepper reminded listeners that NSGB is currently in the early months and stages of wildfire season and encouraged everyone to mind the following safety tips: 1.Be careful grilling, 2. Never leave your grills unattended, and 3. Smokers, please do not throw your cigarette out of your car windows.
"We haven't had rain in several weeks and things are drying out," said Culpepper. "Stay safe and take care of each other and the base."
For more news from Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, visit www.navy.mil/local/guantanamo/.