Long Beach, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Friday was shift change of sorts for Southern Tier fire crews in Long Beach.
Members from Conklin and Union Center were relieved of duty in the afternoon, making room for crews from Choconut Center, Prospect Terrace and others.
Bringing with them only images seen on television of the devastation from more than 200 miles away, volunteers from Prospect Terrace didn't know what to expect when they arrived.
But like those before them, they made their way south toward the remnants of one of the worst natural disasters in history. And join the thousands of emergency responders – dozens from several departments in Broome and Delaware counties.
“It was definitely incredible,” said Capt. Rob Locker, of Prospect Terrace. “It reminds us a lot of what happened back home, obviously, but you see it on TV, and you can watch it on TV, but when you see it in person, and you see the lines at the gas stations and all that. The feeling in the cab as we were driving in was definitely shock.”
From the eastern fire station, members from Conklin and Union Center had fulfilled their 72-hour volunteer duty, leaving Prospect Terrace 72 hours of much of the same.
“Luckily in the fire service, with the camaraderie among the guys, no matter where they're from, there's never a dull moment,” Locker said.
There's a lot of talking, laughing and waiting between occasional emergency runs down Long Beach's black and bitingly cold streets.
Like those who came and left before them this week, the Prospect Terrace crew will be expected to perform the same duties they do in familiar Broome County – except they'll do it in a foreign city, complete darkness and surrounded by utter destruction.
“You're comfortable in your own land and when you get out of that element, it's a lot different,” said Jerry Launt, Broome County's Deputy Fire Coordinator. “The perspective is different, you're not familiar with the area.”
Added Locker: “It's tough in the day time, and a lot tougher in the dark.”
But there's no pity here; instead, only gratitude.
“All the guys in the department were excited to come down and lend a hand, and give back a little bit for the help we received back in September,” Locker said. “It's a tremendous opportunity, as firefighters at home, to come down here and give these people a little more comfort. We know what it was like back home, so it was a pretty easy decision to make.”
The hurry-up-and-wait activity is the very nature of the fire services. Most calls on Friday – from either end of the island – were false alarms and gas leaks that turned up empty.
But crews are wary of the coming days, as utilities begin creeping back to life, and the chance for a widespread fire outbreak along tightly packed streets increases.