DLA Energy continues fueling Hurricane Maria relief efforts

By Irene Smith

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Defense Logistics Agency Energy is continuing fuel support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in response to ongoing Hurricane Maria relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

As of Oct. 16, the DLA Energy Task Force Americas team has completed 433 missions supplying more than 363,000 gallons of fuel used to power first responders and generators throughout Puerto Rico.

DLA Energy Americas at Houston Commander and Task Force Americas Commander Army Lt. Col. Josielyn Carrasquillo and her team set up 10 regional staging areas to distribute gasoline and propane throughout Puerto Rico beginning Oct. 6. Together with FEMA’s contingency fuels contractor Foster Fuels, they are running daily missions from the RSAs to provide gasoline and propane to hospitals, health centers and schools.

“The DLA Energy Task Force Americas team has set up regional staging areas located in Ceiba, Canovanas, Bayamon, Caguas, Guayama, Arecibo, Ponce, Mayaguez, Aguadilla and Utuado,” said Carrasquillo. “Each RSA will maintain 5,000 gallons of diesel and 3,000 gallons of gasoline on site to support the federal first responders and generators throughout the island.”

A government contracted barge carrying 5 million gallons of FEMA fuel arrived at the Port of San Juan on Oct. 11 for resupply efforts.

DLA Energy received a $40 million contingency contract to support FEMA until Oct. 31. Many FEMA task orders are for reoccurring supply missions to keep hospitals and kidney care centers operating. According to the Department of Energy, 83 percent of Puerto Rico is still without power.

Each of the 10 regional staging areas holds three FEMA fuel trucks. Foster Fuels has two types of fuel trucks operating on the island performing FEMA missions: a tank wagon that can hold between 1,500 and 2,500 gallons and is used for retail gas exchange, and tankers that can hold up to 8,000 gallons of gasoline. 

“The collaboration and synchronization among all the key players such as FEMA, 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, 4th Infantry Division, Puerto Rico National Guard and the Puerto Rico Police Department have been fundamental in providing the right fuel support despite the route, terrain, logistics nodes and communication challenges,” Carrasquillo said. 

Restoration efforts for power outrages caused by Hurricanes Maria and Irma continue across Puerto Ricco and the U.S. Virgin Islands. A state of emergency for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands was declared on Sept. 18. According to the Department of Energy, nearly all 1.57 million electricity customers in Puerto Rico lost power following the storm.

“Puerto Rico lost its entire power grid due to Hurricane Maria,” said DLA Energy Current Operations Chief Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Zakar. “Only 17 percent of Puerto Rico is up on the grid while the rest of the island is relying on generators and these generators need fuel. Without fuel and propane, the populace can’t do anything.”

Out of the 65 hospitals on Puerto Rico, 36 are on grid power, 29 are on generator power and two have no power, Zakar said.

Since Oct. 4, 120 Foster Fuel trucks contracted by DLA Energy have arrived in Puerto Rico via barge at FEMA’s incident support base at Roosevelt Roads Yard, a former U.S. Navy base.

A formal interagency agreement for logistics support between DLA and FEMA, Annex B of the FEMA/DLA Interagency Agreement outlines the fuel support provisions between the two agencies and covers ground fuel support and services during presidentially-declared national emergencies and disasters.

“FEMA, Task Force Americas and the Foster Fuels Team are committed and dedicated to the fuel mission in support of Hurricane Maria relief efforts,” Carrasquillo said. “Recently, we loaded two fuel trucks in watercraft to respond to emergency requirements in Culebra and Vieques (two municipality islands), demonstrating that there are no impossible missions when we have a common objective: saving lives.”

The situation in Puerto Rico is improving. All airports and major waterports are open. FEMA has assigned the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to lead restoration efforts to repair Puerto Rico’s power grid. The southeastern and central areas of Puerto Rico are expected to be the last areas restored due to mountainous terrain and impacts in the regions. According to DOE, restoration in these areas could take up to six months.

“I am honored to be here in support of the beautiful people of Puerto Rico,” Carrasquillo said. “I would like to thank my DLA Energy chain of command for giving me the opportunity to serve as the Task Force Americas Commander and for being part of the new beginning of the island that helped me become a U.S. Army leader. Puerto Rico, we will be here as long as you need us. Together, we will make the difference.”