Kenner, La. - The friendships date back more than 10 years.
New Orleans firefighters and members of FDNY have a long history of working together. So when Hurricane Sandy slammed into New York last month, firefighters here knew they had to help.
"When New Orleans was totally evacuated, they stayed for six weeks," says Captain David Nick. "There was over 600 New York firemen and they fought fires with us initially and they helped in rescues. But once that was done, they went to our houses, they gutted our houses, they did everything and anything that needed to be done and they really stepped up to the plate. More than anything, they lifted the spirits of the guys."
The local firefighters volunteered their time and co-workers covered the shifts of the crews headed north over the next few weeks. Southwest Airlines offered to fly all the firefighters for free and the first group left Tuesday morning.
A total of 40 New Orleans firefighters will spend time working with FDNY, fighting fires, cleaning houses and helping the area begin to recover.
NOFD Captain Steve Lambert lost his home during Katrina and then again because of Isaac. He put his own rebuilding plans on hold to make the trip.
"We got the house cleaned up and gutted," says Lambert. "After this trip, we'll start rebuilding."
Billy Shanks, also a captain with NOFD, lost everything in his Lakeview home during Katrina. He packed pictures to show those who are going through it now.
"I'm just going to tell those people to look forward, take it one day at a time and there is a light at the end of the tunnel," he says.
It's that determination New Orleans firefighters hope to pass on as they work in some of the hardest-hit areas, such as Breezy Point. More than 80 homes were destroyed by fire and flooding there.
Bill Spiers knows that helpless feeling. He wasn't a firefighter when Katrina hit in 2005.
"I couldn't do anything after Katrina because they basically kept me out of the city," he says. "I wanted to get on the fire department so I could do something to help people that needed it."
The firefighters hope they'll never need the assistance of New York again but they know, if New Orleans is ever hurting, their friends at FDNY will be here to help.
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