Fifteen volunteer firefighters from five companies in Genesee County are headed east this morning to assist in relief and recovery efforts in one of the hardest hit areas of the state from Hurricane Irene.
The volunteers gathered at the Emergency Servcies Training Center on State Street Road at 6:30 a.m. to be briefed on their mission by County Coordinator Tim Yaeger.
The group then headed to the Thruway to make it to Schoharie County by noon for a 72-hour deployment.
"They're in bad shape down there and now they've got more rain coming," said Yaeger, who was among the state's emergency coordinators dispatched to the region right after the storm hit.
The firefighters will be relieving other volunteers who have been working in the county since the storm hit last week.
"There's still places that are getting drops by Blackhawk helicopters of food and water because they're still isolated," Yaeger said.
Yaeger said it's amazing what these guys have signed up for with no pay. They will likely be sleeping on cots, living on pizza and pumping sewage out of basements during their 12-hour shifts.
They might also be called upon to deliver relief supplies to residents isolated by storm damage or just help with general clean up and recovery.
"And they're offended if I don't offer them a chance to go," Yaeger said. "These guys have been waiting for this for a week."
Darien Chief Dale Breitwieser couldn't make the deployment, but he was at the training center this morning to see off the three volunteers from his department. He said it's events like this where you see that volunteers are a special breed of person.
"There will be volunteers there from all over the state and they'll all pull together," Breitwieser said.
Besides Darien, participating departments are Bergen, Town of Batavia and Stafford along with staff from Emergency Services.
Yaeger is not joining this group, though he may be deployed later today to Green County where a village of 700 people in the Town of Plattsville was wiped off the map. The town supervisor lost his house and his gas station and now he's trying to help his town through the devastation, Yaeger said.
The Albany Times Union has a photo slide show of the damage in Schoharie County.