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This home on Long Island is owned by a firefighter.  Crews from the North Country have gone south to help their colleagues recover. Photo: Jim Stinson, Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department
This home on Long Island is owned by a firefighter. Crews from the North Country have gone south to help their colleagues recover. Photo: Jim Stinson, Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department

North Country emergency crews head south to Sandy

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As fire and rescue crews downstate grow weary from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, teams from the North Country are beginning to rotate into the storm damaged area.

Crews from Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake are already on Long Island, working with local fire departments and helping provide safety information.

A half-dozen crews from Essex County are now on standby, waiting for assignments in hard-hit areas downstate.

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Martha Foley
News and Public Affairs Director

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Jim Stinson, a volunteer firefighter from Saranac Lake, is currently on the ground working with a fire department on Long Island. He says the damage is massive.

"It's very, very similar to what we saw in Keene and Ausable Forks and Jay [during tropical storm Irene], except just a much, much larger area," he said, describing a vast neighborhood of damaged homes with boats left in streets.

Stinson is part of a four-man crew from Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake. They've been distributing relief supplies and information, and helping to battle fires.

"Their members, their fire departments here, their homes are personally damaged, so we're augmenting them," he said. "I think we've been on seven or eight calls so far where we've responded to fires."

Emergency crews in the North Country have responded before to New York City, after 9/11 and after the freak snowstorm that hit the city last year.

Rusty Hall is fire chief in Keene Valley, where a four-man crew is on standby, ready to head south in the next couple of days.

He says sharing help is the right thing to do especially after the relief that downstate crews sent to the Adirondacks following tropical storm Irene.

"The fact that we had the backup crews available was quite relieving on my part, at least emotionally, in the fact that I could sleep at night and not worry about what if it hit the fan, so to speak," Hall said.

Private companies are also helping with the relief effort. Saranac Lake fire chief Brendan Keough says his crew needed new water pumps to help empty flooded homes in the city.

A rental supply company called Sturdy Supply donated the equipment.

"When we backed the truck up to the doors, they offered us any of their rental equipment free of charge as long as we needed it and they said, take whatever you want off the shelves," Keough said.

The fire crew borrowed four pumps and a portable generator.

National Grid is also helping to restore power in New York city, sending nearly 1,400 employees and contractors from upstate areas to help in lower Manhattan and Long Island.

Brian Mann contributed reporting to this story.

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