By RACHAEL OSBORNE
PLATTSBURGH -- Lacolle and St. Paul Isle Noix fire departments were delayed as they tried to cross the border on their way to the Anchorage fire late Sunday night.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers stopped fire trucks from the two Quebec departments at the Route 9B crossing in Rouses Point as they responded to a Mutual Aid call.
Chris Trombley, department fire coordinator for Clinton County Emergency Services, said there was some confusion at the border as to which firefighters had identification and which did not.
"The officers ran the vehicle ID to see if it (the fire truck) was legal and checked to see if the people were legal."
He did not know exactly how long the firefighters were held up, characterizing it as "a bit of a delay."
Trombley thinks tighter restrictions may be in place because of the May 24 incident in which Andrew Speaker, who was infected with a rare, drug-resistant form of tuberculosis, entered the United States from Canada at the Champlain crossing.
He said the departments have never really had any major issues with crossing the border until Sunday night, and he believes it was an isolated incident.
Kevin Corsaro, U.S. Customs and Border Protection public affairs officer for the Buffalo field office, said that the delay was not connected to the tuberculosis issue. He said the first fire truck was examined "as quickly as possible" but there was a question of admissibility with one firefighter on the second fire truck.
"It took less than eight minutes to process that individual," Corsaro said.
He said the officers recognise that emergency vehicles need to be processed quickly but said it is also their job to protect the nations borders.
Trombley said he is not sure whether the landmark restaurant would have been saved had the departments been able to enter the United States faster, but he said the delay did strain firefighters battling flames in Rouses Point.
"The people there really needed to be relieved. It was a pretty risky situation."
Lacolle and St. Paul Isle Noix fire departments are part of the Clinton County Mutual Aid System.
Trombley said the Quebec departments respond to area fires often and that they all help each other.
Clinton County Emergency Services Coordinator Eric Day could not be reached Monday for comment.
Trombley said a meeting is planned to resolve the issue and educate personnel.
"We really want to learn from this incident and try to keep it from happening again."