USDA Forest Service Responds to Super Typhoon Yutu

  • By Kerry Greene, Public Affairs Specialist, Fire and Aviation Management, Pacific Southwest Region
Homes are torn apart by a super typhoon. Firefighters prepare equipment in a shack. Incident responders work together with the Saipan Crew 36 to remove hazardous trees from roads. Incident responders work together with the Saipan Crew 36 to remove hazardous trees. Incident responders setup and organize supplies at a distribution center.Wildland firefighters from Saipan and Forest Service employees from California show their long-standing relationship and camaraderie during times of emergency.

On Oct. 25, 2018, Super Typhoon Yutu made landfall on the shores of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI); the most significant storm to impact U.S. soil since 1935. Sustained wind speeds of over 130 mph caused catastrophic damage to the islands of Saipan and Tinian, resulting in two deaths and 133 injuries. Members of a California interagency incident management team (NorCal Team 2), led by Incident Commander Daren Dalrymple, were dispatched to assist in response to Yutu on Nov. 12. The mission was to organize logistics, coordinate between responding agencies, distribute, manage and track supplies at a receiving and distribution center in support of Federal Emergency Management Agency’s temporary housing program, known as TETRIS (Temporary Emergency Tent and Roofing Installation Support). In addition, crew leads and liaisons traveled from California to supervise a local hand crew of wildland firefighters in clearing roads. This crew (CNMI Crew 36) receives training from the U.S. Forest Service during the year under a cooperative agreement, and deploys annually to assist with wildfires on the mainland.

Within several operational periods of arriving the team had developed a system for organizing and tracking materials for the TETRIS, including tent kits, supplies and roofing materials, and had worked to coordinate communication between the CNMI emergency response crews, Department of Defense personnel, and FEMA. The team developed and maintained a materials and action tracking system to accurately account for supplies coming in and going out from the receiving and distribution center and to map and validate completed work. Additional staff worked daily at the joint field office to maintain communication channels with FEMA and CNMI leadership, and to assure accurate planning and accountability. These efforts greatly contributed to the efficiency of the operation, allowing affected residents to receive help more quickly. In addition, U.S. Forest Service staff supervised and participated in the clearing of fallen and hazard trees off of nine miles of island roadways with CNMI Crew 36. This was not only a direct benefit to the island residents, but also presented opportunities to strengthen the existing relationship between the Forest Service, CMNI, and the crew. Crew members also assisted with operations at the receiving and distribution center. One safety officer was deployed with the team to help ensure safe operations.

Images illustrating the work done on assignment were collected and disseminated at