Updated 09/29/2010 02:53 PM
U.S. Forest Service Helps To Clear Tornado Damage
Firefighters from the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee have been transplanted to the heart of Brooklyn this week to help clean up damage in Prospect Park from the recent tornadoes. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.
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A 22-person crew from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service is working with the city Parks Department to clear debris left behind from the two tornadoes from September 16.
The so-called "Cherokee Hotshots" are wildland firefighters from eastern Tennessee who have come to the city to help clear away fallen trees.
"We normally would go to hurricane details and help clean up national parks," said Cherokee Hotshots Superintendent Matthew Gilbert. "We're somewhat experienced with this, but we had no idea that there were so many trees in New York City or the size of your parks, etc. So it's pretty impressive to see what the tornado did."
Wednesday was the Hotshots' third day in Prospect Park, where officials say 40 trees were blown down and 170 were damaged.
Parks officials say the firefighters have been a great help, because the city agency has first had to clean up neighborhoods hit by the twisters.
"We are going to be able to start focusing on the parks next week and the Hotshots have really given us a jump on that," said First Deputy Parks Commissioner Liam Kavanagh.
The Parks Department is also thinking about the future and replanting trees that were lost during the tornado.
"Many of these are in wooded areas, and so... suddenly a lot of sunlight has come into areas that hadn't had sunlight, so you have to worry about invasive trees coming in," said Prospect Park Administrator Tupper Thomas. "You have to think about which kind of trees to plant to replace them."
Some areas in the park are still blocked off to the public, even though they look safe. Parks officials say broken limbs high up in trees are still in danger of falling down.
The Cherokee Hotshots are scheduled to be in town through the weekend.