Rural Crews Help City Comrades Tackle N.Y. Disaster

As New York City's first responders begin to show fatigue, and in many cases deal with losses of their own homes, replacement crews of firefighters are getting ready to roll into Manhattan and Long Island. Among them are a group of firefighters from a small rural fire station in the mountains of upstate New York.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

As the long, slow cleanup from Superstorm Sandy continues, emergency responders are getting weary. Many fire and ambulance crews in New York City and Long Island are struggling to deal with their own homes, which have been damaged by the storm and still without power. As North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann reports, firefighters and EMTs from other parts of New York State are mobilizing to give their comrades in the city some relief.

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BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: At a small rural fire house in tiny Keene Valley, New York, high in the Adirondack Mountains, a crew is prepping an emergency truck. Twenty-three-year-old Ian Hall, a trained EMT, opens one of the equipment lockers, filled with chain saws, generators and axes.

IAN HALL: Portable pumps for both pumping basements and they can be used to pump water for forest fires.

MANN: There aren't likely to be many forest fires on Long Island. This four man-crew, including 23-year-old Logan Quinn, who works a day job as an assistant forest ranger, is clearly a little nervous leaving this small town for the big city.

LOGAN QUINN: It will certainly be different for me. I'm used to serving the public in a back-country setting. So, an urban experience will be something that I don't really get to do too often. So, be glad to do my part.

MANN: When asked why they volunteered, taking time away from jobs and family, 22-year-old Ryan Hall says it's a no-brainer given this mountain town's recent history.

RYAN HALL: Well, I thought it was a good thing to do after seeing what happened to us and all the help and outpouring that we got from all over the state. And I figured I would like to return the favor.

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MANN: In August 2011, tropical storm Irene slammed Keene Valley, triggering flash floods that washed away homes and wiped out one of the local fire stations.

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MANN: Fire chief Rusty Hall remembers the huge relief he felt seeing fire crews from downstate roll into his town.

CHIEF RUSTY HALL: The hours that our guys put in, they went home exhausted at night. And the fact that we had the backup crews available was quite relieving on my part, at least emotionally, and the fact that I could sleep at night and not have to worry about what if it hit the fan, so to speak.

MANN: Hall is sending two guys from his own family down to the city - both volunteer firefighters. Emergency crews from this region already working on Long Island say they're seeing much the same destruction they saw after Irene, but on a vastly bigger scale. It's unclear how long this kind of back-up help will be needed, but the villages around Keene Valley already have a half-dozen additional teams on standby, ready to roll when they get the call. For NPR News, I'm Brian Mann in New York's Adirondack Mountains.

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