Peoria, Surprise officials support relief efforts in Saipan

Officials from Peoria and Surprise traveled more than 6,300 miles to Saipan to help with relief efforts after an October typhoon. (Submitted photo)

Weeks after a super typhoon hit the Mariana Islands in the Western Pacific, the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management’s All Hazard Incident Management Team traveled to Saipan to help survivors displaced by the storm.

The Peoria Fire-Medical Department sent Deputy Chief Gary Bernard, Battalion Chief Billy Morris, Captain Danny Comella, and Surprise Fire-Medical Department Captain Kevin Johnston as leaders of this team.

Peoria and Surprise officials were among a group of Arizonans helping with relief efforts in Saipan after a typhoon in October. (Submitted photo)

The U.S. Forest Service arranged the 14-day assignment in which the team works alongside leaders from the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands to coordinate the efforts of multiple agencies in distributing temporary, emergency shelters to disaster survivors.

More than 1,100 households received shelters through this program so far.

In late October, Super Typhoon Yutu hit the Northern Mariana Islands as a Category 5 storm. With winds up to 180-mph, the storm destroyed several structures including homes, schools, and businesses. Shortly after the storm made landfall, local and national response teams have been working on Saipan and Tinian to help provide emergency shelter to those left without a place to live.

Saipan is the largest of the islands that comprise the CNMI, a self-governing Commonwealth in political union with and under the sovereignty of the United States.

“Whether we are in Arizona on a wildfire or working a typhoon recovery mission, we always feel privileged to assist,” said AHIMT Incident Commander Pruett Small. “Here on Saipan, we hope our efforts help speed up the recovery process and allow its residents to get back onto their feet faster.”

The team works closely with the Arizona Department of Emergency Management and numerous state fire departments and law enforcement agencies to provide incident management assistance within Arizona and around the nation.

Erin Dunsey, media relations specialist for the Peoria Unified School District, said Mr. Comella is a fire science teacher at Sunrise Mountain High School.

“He’s very well-respected by his peers and gets called to assist in many high-profile fire/recovery efforts,” she stated in an email.

Editor’s Note: The Peoria Fire-Medical Department provided the information above.



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