Ithaca (WSYR-TV) - During times of disaster and tragedy, we rely on heroes. They're the responders who make their way to the hardest-hit areas to help people in need.
Many of them are from Central New York. Six members of the Ithaca Fire Department's Swift Water Rescue Team have just returned from Long Island where they spent two days supporting rescue operations.
Assistant Fire Chief Willis Sheldon said, “The local fire departments were swamped with trees crushing houses and the potential for people to be trapped in those houses."
Area crews were so swamped that one department in Island Park needed help at their own fire station, where 100 people were stranded when the Ithaca team showed up.
"We had reports of water being over 10 feet, the first floor of the fire hall being flooded and everyone was on the second floor with water coming up,” Sheldon said.
While water hampered many rescuers, intense wind and flying debris immobilized others at the height of the storm.
“They literally had fire departments cut off from being able to help other citizens because the trees were literally falling in front of them and behind them as they were rendering aid,” Sheldon said.
Much of the tidal water has receded, but the damage remains. With the cleanup phase underway, homeland security officials credit Ithaca’s swift water team with about 60 rescues.
“It’s all part of our job. We aren't anything special. We have some training and we use those for the good of the public,” Sheldon said.