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Police, Bravest work extra in borough during blackout

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Police officers and firefighters from Bayside to Astoria worked overtime to keep the streets safe, traffic moving safely and blazes from spinning out of control during last week’s blackout.

By Ayala Ben-Yehuda

Police officers and firefighters from Bayside to Astoria worked overtime to keep the streets safe, traffic moving safely and blazes from spinning out of control during last week’s blackout.

At the darkened 111th Police Precinct in Bayside just after the lights went out, Capt. Thomas Pilkington said all his officers, including those who were supposed to be off-duty at the time, were on patrol.

Besides directing traffic at critical intersections such as Northern and Bell boulevards, police were contacting people in the precinct who were on life support to make sure their generators were working and transporting them to cooler areas if necessary.

Pilkington stayed calm during what was only his second week on the job as commanding officer of the 111th Precinct.

“New York City residents are at their best in a time of crisis,” he said simply.

Patrolling the area under the elevated N train at 31st Street in Astoria Friday afternoon, Police Officer Fredy Herrera did his best to keep his eyes open after getting three hours of sleep since he woke up for work Thursday morning.

Herrera said he worked his regular 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. tour last Thursday but was called back about three hours later for emergency duty when the power went out. He worked until 2:30 a.m., slept briefly at home and returned to work at 7 a.m. Herrera was expecting to be relieved by another officer at 7 p.m. Friday night.

Still, the officer did not mind the work and said the neighborhood made it pleasant.

“If you have a nice neighborhood and everybody talks to you, I could stay here all day,” he said.

Fire Department spokesman Mike Loughran said 3,000 firefighters, nearly double the normal amount on duty during a given shift, battled serious fires during the blackout citywide.

“It’s one of the busiest nights we’ve had in recent times,” said Loughran.

FDNY spokesman Sean Johnson said eight of 71 serious fires during the blackout took place in Queens but no fire-related deaths.

Some 23 blazes were caused by candle mishaps, said Loughran.

“We tried to get the word out that you’re better off using batteries and flashlights,” said Loughran. “(Candles are) a huge safety risk, especially when you have pets.”

Two people died during the blackout: a 6-year-old Brooklyn boy playing with a lighter and a Manhattan man who suffered a heart attack during a fire.

TimesLedger staff contributed to this report.

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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