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MAHONING COUNTY Area firefighters stand by to help at trade center site



Published: Thu, September 20, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Local firefighters plan to take buses to attend a massive memorial service in New York.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County Fire Chiefs Association is poised to send more than 150 firefighters to New York.

"We've been overwhelmed with volunteers," said Youngstown Fire Chief John J. O'Neill Jr. "We had to figure out how many each [department] can afford to send and then let the contact person know."

He said the contact is Austintown Fire Chief Andrew G. Frost.

Across Ohio, for all 88 counties, the effort is being coordinated by the state fire marshal's office in Columbus, which will determine who goes and when, O'Neill said.

Youngstown, for example, can send 12 firefighters for five to seven days and then relieve them with another 12 for another five to seven days, O'Neill said. At that level, the city would still be protected and overtime would be at a minimum, he said. Some firefighters who have volunteered to help could use their vacation time, O'Neill said. More than 150 firefighters in Mahoning County have signed up to go, he said.

Relief: As it stands now, New York firefighters want to recover their colleagues and any citizens who died when the World Trade Center twin towers collapsed after being hit by hijacked commercial airliners Sept. 11, O'Neill said. At some point, they'll need relief, he said.

"We don't want to make their problems worse or send people now and just have them sit," O'Neill said. "We can be there in no time."

New York can draw relief from big fire departments in Brooklyn, Syracuse, Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Boston before asking for help from this area and other states, he said. Aside from a search for bodies and possible survivors, crews working at the site, dubbed ground zero, are hoping to retrieve the jets' black boxes that would shed light on what happened before the impacts.

Once the word is given that all hope of rescuing anyone alive is gone, the manpower need will switch to more ironworkers and heavy equipment operators, O'Neill said.

Local firefighters will board buses and attend a massive memorial service once New York firefighters determine a date for the observance, O'Neill said.

So far, city firefighters have collected $6,500 from walk-ins to aid the New York victims, O'Neill said. A check was expected today from Union Square Sparkle Market.

The fire chiefs association is deciding on a uniform plan to collect money, he said.

meade@vindy.com




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