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Maine forest rangers return home from Sandy relief efforts

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AUGUSTA - The Maine Forest Ranger Incident Management Team is returning to Maine after helping with the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts in New York City for the past 14 days.

Mobilized just two days after the devastating storm hit the city, the nine-member team spent last week working with the New York City Department of Health and the New York National Guard in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn.

The Maine team managed three separate medical-assistance teams comprised of security personnel from the National Guard, paramedics and New York City health officials that conducted more than 21,000 door-to-door health and wellness checks in nearly 200 high-rise buildings affected by the storm.

'Maine was very fortunate to be spared from Sandy, and it is our honor and duty to help our neighbors to the south as they recover and rebuild,' said Governor Paul R. LePage. 'I want to thank this team of forest rangers and the many other Mainers who have also stepped up to serve for their efforts and for representing the great and generous spirit of our state.'

Commissioner Walter Whitcomb of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, which oversees the Maine Forest Service, agreed.

'We are very proud of the much-needed assistance provided by our Maine forest rangers and are glad they are all home safe and sound,' he said. 'I know their extensive experience alleviated some of the pain and suffering still being endured by Hurricane Sandy victims.'

The goal of the health assessments organized by the Maine team was to check on the well-being of residents who live in high-rise buildings and to determine if they had any health issues. The three teams also helped fill dozens of medical prescriptions for those unable to get to their pharmacies.

Many of these residents have been without heat, hot water or electricity since the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy ruined electrical systems and flooded basement furnaces.

The Maine team members supported restoration efforts by tracking the number of buildings visited and prescriptions filled, providing detailed digital maps of the locations and facilitating meetings with federal, state and city officials.

Emily Ashton, a New York City Health Department senior advisor, thanked the Maine Incident Management Team for their efforts and said that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg daily reviewed the data they produced.

'Before the Maine forest rangers and the National Guard arrived, we were unorganized and were limited to groups of volunteers for the wellness checks,' Ashton commented. 'The forest rangers provided clear, crisp direction and helped us get the job done way ahead of schedule.'

Maine Forest Ranger Jeff Currier, team leader, said he was pleased to be part of such a meaningful mission.

'It truly was an honor to help the Hurricane Sandy victims and support the New York City Health Department and the New York National Guard,' he said. 'While the setting may be different than we are used to working in, our skills with managing large-scale incidents such as wildfires and hurricanes were utilized and appreciated.'


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