Flashing lights no cause for expedited border service

ROUSES POINT, N.Y. — Two days after Quebec firefighters were delayed crossing the U.S.-Canadian border while responding to a fire a few miles away in Rouses Point, N.Y., a U.S. senator called for border changes.

New York Senator Chuck Schumer called on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) 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.

First responders in communities dotting the New York State and Canadian border regularly participate in Mutual Aid calls where first responders from one country will cross the border to provide assistance, when requested, to their counterparts facing an emergency.On Nov. 11, Quebec firefighters responding to a fire at Anchorage restaurant in Rouses Point were held up at the border, leaving local firefighters on the scene of the fire without much-needed backup and creating what the Clinton County fire coordinator termed a “risky situation.”

With the U.S. Department of Homeland Security threatening to implement new border rules in as little as two months, Schumer called on the CBP to develop and implement a permanent system that will allow responders to swiftly cross the border.

“Sunday’s 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,” stated Schumer. “Border communities in both New York and Canada rely on each other’s first responders to provide vital backup, and Sunday’s 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.”The Anchorage – a landmark restaurant in Rouses Point – was destroyed by a serious fire. A Mutual Aid call was issued and while firefighters from the Rouses Point area quickly arrived at the scene of the fire, firefighters from Lacolle and St. Paul Isle Noix fire departments in Quebec were delayed as they tried to the cross the border en route to the fire.

It is still unclear how long the trucks were delayed; various reports have placed it between eight minutes and 45 minutes.

Schumer recommended that a permanent system be put in place to ensure first-responders can quickly cross the border, while making sure border security is not compromised. Specifically, Schumer requested that CBP consider establishing a pre-clearance system for first responders and also to allowing emergency vehicles to cross the border immediately, if CBP is notified by the appropriate American authority that emergency assistance has been requested.

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