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Coming together for a cause

East Syracuse Fire Department Lt. Nate Baker and Lt. Ryan Russell stand in front of the rubble that once was the Syracuse Recycling and Recovery building on Carr St. One month later, the wreckage is still smoking after the July 23 fire, which burned for 72 hours straight and took the efforts of 30 fire departments to put out.

East Syracuse Fire Department Lt. Nate Baker and Lt. Ryan Russell stand in front of the rubble that once was the Syracuse Recycling and Recovery building on Carr St. One month later, the wreckage is still smoking after the July 23 fire, which burned for 72 hours straight and took the efforts of 30 fire departments to put out. Allie Wenner

— In recent months, the village of East Syracuse has been divided, largely over the issue of whether or not to abolish the police department. There are residents who believe the DeWitt police would not be able to do a sufficient job and want to keep their department at all costs. And there are those who simply can’t afford to pay their taxes (which rose 22 percent this year) and see cutting the department as a solution to the village’s economic woes.

But during the week of July 23, none of that mattered. One of the largest fires to sweep through Central New York in the last 30 years ignited at the Syracuse Recycling and Recovery building on Carr Street in the village of East Syracuse. More than 30 departments from several counties across Central New York took turns helping the East Syracuse Fire Department battle the blaze, which started on July 23 and was ignited for 72 hours. East Syracuse Fire Lt. Nate Baker said that during those 72 hours, department volunteers saw a magnitude of community support that they’d never seen before.

“Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a disaster to unite a community,” said Baker. “Business owners were walking over to us with coolers full of water. Residents were making us food and dropping it off at the fire house. The DPW helped us roll the hose and clean up all the equipment. The police helped us by coning off areas and on the night we finally closed the fire and had to keep an eye on it, they checked in on it while our guys were resting.”

For the entirety of that week, Baker said that people he’d never seen before were dropping off coolers and food and thanking him for protecting the village. Ryan Russell, also an East Syracuse Fire Department Lt., said all the little contributions by community members added up to make a big difference when they were putting out the fire.

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