Central New York fire departments rely on each other for mutual aid whenever it looks like an emergency might be too big for one department to handle. But some local crews are lending a hand to some more distant neighbors. Sarah Blazonis has more.
CENTRAL NEW YORK -- The devastation left behind by Sandy is enough to make anyone avoid parts of the northeast. But Auburn Fire Chief Jeff Dygert says when the call came for help from downstate, his crew jumped at the chance.
Dygert said, "We help our neighbors out and even though New York City is really not a close neighbor, they're pretty much down the street."
Fourteen firefighters from the Auburn, Aurelius and Owasco departments made the trip. The chief says his men are trained in swift water rescue, diving,and hazmat operations. Still, the situation presents a number of challenges.
"All the infrastructure that we're normally used to is gone. The roadways are typically gone, power is gone, communication is extremely limited if it's available at all," Dygert said.
Also ready to lend a hand is the American Red Cross of Central New York.
"Primarily, we do shelter and feeding of people. As part of that process, we have health services people, some nurses, mental health people to help people deal with the stress of what's going on," said Maureen Perkins of the CNY Red Cross Regional Emergency Services.
The Red Cross says the still-fresh memories of the damage caused by Irene and Lee last year may have helped in recruiting dozens of volunteers for the national assignment.
Perkins said, "When things happen in your own community, you can see the impact that a storm or some other kind of event has in that your neighbors and friends are affected. Then it makes you understand the value of volunteering and being able to help in a larger event."
And though it's a long road ahead for Sandy clean-up, crews say it's an honor to help those in need.
"This doesn't happen very often and when we can get everybody together and do what we do to help other folks. We're not heroes. We do this because we enjoy doing it," said Brian Dahl, Cayuga County Director of Emergency Services.
Chief Dygert says because of the extent of the damage downstate, there's no telling how long the assignment for the Cayuga County Crew could last.