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Schumer calls for better border policy following Anchorage fire

ALBANY In the aftermath of the fire that recently destroyed the landmark Anchorage restaurant in Rouses Point, U.S., U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, D-Brooklyn, is calling on U.S. Customs and Border Protection "to employ a regular system that would allow first-responders from the two countries to swiftly cross the border so they can offer mutual assistance. On Nov. 11, firefighters from 10 local fire departments rushed to the scene when a passing motorist reported seeing smoke shortly after 11 p.m. Among those responding were two mutual aid Canadian crews from Lacolle and St. Paul Isle Noix. When the Canadian crews attempted to enter the U.S. at State Route 9B, they were delayed while U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents attempted to verify the admissibility of one of the responding firefighters. According to Kevin Corsaro, CBP public affairs officer for the Buffalo field office, the firefighters were delayed at the border for less than eight minutes, although conflicting reports indicate that it could have been longer. The building was a total loss; however, Rouses Point Fire Chief Michael LeBlanc stated that "the outcome of the fire at the Anchorage restaurant was not affected by the cross-border response time." Nevertheless, the delay did pose a risky situation according to the Chris Trombley, department fire coordinator for Clinton County Emergency Services. Sundays blaze at the Anchorage restaurant has made it crystal clear that we need a better system for moving first responders across so that communities like Rouses Point can have the resources they need in life or death situations, where minutes matter, said Sen. Schumer. Border communities in both New York and Canada rely on each others first responders to provide vital backup, and Sundays events served as an unfortunate reminder of the need to incorporate a system that will make sure first responders can swiftly cross the borders while not compromising our border security. Sen. Schumer expressed concern that policies are not being developed to admit first responders as regulations are implemented to tighten border security. In an open letter to Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security, Sen. Schumer requested CBP consider whether it would be possible to pre-clear the admissibility of Canadian firefighters and other first responders and then to allow emergency vehicles to cross the border immediately. Stephen Brereton, Canadian Consul General in Buffalo, has joined Sen. Schumer in urging protocols be developed to facilitate the cross-border travel of emergency workers as well as medical evacuation cases.

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