The volunteers and first responders

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“It was far beyond anything you could imagine, fighting fires in four or five feet of water,” said Fire Commissioner Scott Kemins, praising the leadership of Chief Richard Corbett, First Assistant Chief Antonio Cuevas, Assistant Chief Robert Tuccillo and Lt. Tom O’Dowd. “One of the challenges was the fires on Barnes and Farrell streets — we were stuck in the firehouses when that fire began. Two guys, Tim Sorenson and Bob Holthkamp, grabbed a portable pump and inflatable boat and threw a hose in it. They literally walked from the Maple Boulevard firehouse, and once the water receded we got the trucks out there.”

Kemins said that about 40 firefighters, with no assistance from nearby departments, battled the blaze in the Canals for six hours. “Everybody from the chiefs down did their thing,” he said. “We had two girls who are EMTs, Santana Hosein and Cody Kramer, working a hose during another fire — a car was burning against a house. They were pressed into firefighting when needed, and they didn’t hesitate.”

In the days after the storm, as residents’ patience with the Long Island Power Authority’s restoration efforts grew thin, City Manager Jack Schnirman explained, “We focused on problem solving, not finger pointing and blame. Rather than running around, screaming that LIPA was the worst, we acknowledged their problems and got a team of LIPA managers in our Building Department. They stayed there for over 10 days, and they worked around the clock with our staff to get Long Beach up and running as fast as possible.”

“There were a lot of city employees who slept for several nights at City Hall,” added city spokesman Gordon Tepper. “Early on, the immediate pressure was to restore the water and sewer plants, and [Public Works Commissioner Jim LaCarrubba] worked around the clock with his team to get those plants up, and at the same time he was responsible for clearing the sand out of the streets, along with debris.”

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