COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Paramedics from the Pikes Peak region found themselves in the midst of what New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has called an "urban search and rescue" after Hurricane Sandy raged ashore Monday night.
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American Medical Response had six medics from Colorado Springs and three more from Pueblo in place at Fort Dix in central New Jersey even before the superstorm hit land.
Sandy blasted the northeastern part of the country with high winds and pounding rains that continued into Tuesday. Extreme conditions pushed the death toll to 38 by about noon, according to an Associated Press report.
The urgency and increasing casualties from the storm gave the Pikes Peak AMR crews responsibilities a bit different from what they're used to working in the Colorado Springs area.
"They're helping local 911 providers search areas and see if there are people who need medical assistance," said Tawnya Silloway a spokeswoman for AMR in Colorado Springs.
Silloway said the paramedics are used to waiting for emergency calls and responding directly to those who need medical attention. Now they don't know what they'll find when they start combing ravaged neighborhoods, she said.
The Pikes Peak crews, including Fountain firefighter John Mira, flew into Atlanta on Sunday and joined an group of AMR ambulances that headed for Fort Dix.
Silloway said she's been able to exchange a couple of emails with the paramedics, but she and Fountain fire Chief Darin Anstine said FEMA doesn't want the medics taking any time away from their shifts that can extend to 16 hours "until things calm down."
"They're just working, working, working," Anstine said, noting that he talked briefly with Mira on Tuesday.
Silloway, Anstine and officials at Colorado Springs Utilities are on standby to provide more assistance and materials if FEMA requests them.
Utilities spokeswoman Nikki Richardson said her office was prepared to send workers and supplies to the Northeast and help with infrastructure repairs, but she said, "Given the predictions and the size of the storm, there were a lot of contractors there to provide assistance ahead of time."
"It's not something we felt we could make an impact with by sending people out," Richardson said.