PUERTO RICO – On Jan. 20, in coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a group of USDA Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations personnel was dispatched to Puerto Rico to assist with the response to the impacts from the recent earthquakes.
A series of earthquakes has been affecting Puerto Rico since Dec. 28, 2019, just as the island was starting to recover from the impacts from hurricanes Maria and Irma. So far, these earthquakes have not impacted either El Yunque National Forest or the International Institute of Tropical Forestry, both of which are managed by the Forest Service. But in light of the agency’s commitment to shared stewardship, the agency is committed to assisting with the recovery efforts to the best of its abilities.
A Forest Service quick response team consisting of 10 Forest Service LEI personnel and 15 Housing & Urban Development special agents arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where they received a deputized and received a special oath of office from the United States Marshals Service. The law enforcement personnel were assigned to Emergency Support Function 13 to assist and respond to the impacts from the recent earthquakes by providing force protection for federal personnel, facilities and equipment.
Forest Service LEI personnel relieved an outgoing group of law enforcement personnel from the Drug Enforcement Agency, assuming the duties of a daily FEMA Security Mission during overnight hours from 7 p.m to 7 a.m. The focus for the Forest Service LEI was to assist FEMA with a security mission by providing force protection for a FEMA Mobile Command Vehicle and equipment in the Ponce area. During the nighttime, LEI personnel conducted patrols and guarded equipment and facilities of multiple federal and state disaster relief authorities.
The Forest Service officers are now back home, as the mission ended after the Federal Protective Service organized contracted security to perform the force protection mission.