Cape Cod First Responders Inundated with Calls

Cape Cod First Responders Inundated with Calls

News Feb 09, 2013

Feb. 09--The whipping winds brought by a relentless nor'easter have been wreaking havoc on Cape Cod, where the small towns' first responders have been in overdrive responding to flaming telephone poles, downed trees and medical calls in the state's isolated elbow.

The long curving Cape and Islands are laid bare to the raging wind that carried the winter storm into the Bay State. Cuttyhunk Island topped the state with an 83 mph wind gust, while Buzzards Bay has endured winds at 74 mph, Chatham at 61 and Nantucket at 69, according to the National Weather Service.

The ferocious gusts have ripped down wires en masse, leaving 85 percent of the homes in a half-dozen Cape communities without power, according to NStar figures.

It's left the fatigued fire departments scrambling, some with 50 to 75 calls in the last 18 hours alone, including in Chatham, where gusts were so strong, they ripped a chimney from a home, said Chatham Fire Capt. Nelson Wirtz.

"We are still jumping," he said by phone this afternoon. "We have had multiple pole fires. There are some transformer fires, some where just the electrical wires were burning up in the air and the pole is on fire."

A department that normally has five firefighters on Saturday day shifts, Chatham had 11 to 12 on duty today, keeping each of the department's vehicles on the road in an attempt to keep up with medical calls, Wirtz said.

What's normally a 20- to 25-minute ride to Cape Cod Hospital has turned into an hour-long trip one way, pushing most medical responses to upwards of three hours, he said. Not helping has been the occasional motorist violating the state driving ban simply to "drive around and look at stuff," he said.

"Stay home," Wirtz warned. "We're a small house. We're out on the elbow. We sometimes feel we're kind of by ourselves. But we just keep going."

In Brewster, Capt. Tony Dalmau said local jakes have responded to as many as 75 calls since 6 p.m., yesterday, some for elderly residents stranded in a powerless home.

"We've done a number of relocations to shelter," he said.

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And unlike some towns, neither Chatham nor Brewster has had the benefit of National Guard aid, officials said.

"This is the worst I've seen it since '03," Dalmau said of the storm. "We've been dealing with what you expect to deal with in this kind of event."

At Sandwich fire headquarters, jakes have been working non-stop.

"We have every piece of equipment out," a dispatcher said before quickly going back to his duties.

Copyright 2013 - Boston Herald

Boston Herald
Matt Stout
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