North Carolina Firemen Hammer Away At Katrina's Mess

Windsor, North Carolina firefighters never got a rescue call like this one. A home in Gulfport, hidden in a back alley 920 miles away, had to be saved. Seventeen of North Carolina's brave firemen, and seven of their friends rushed to the scene.

Frank Taylor was right on the front lines, hammering away at hurricane debris. The devastation, he said, shocked him.

"Just never seen anything like it," he said. "We're trying to help as much as we can. But it's like being a drop in the ocean."

It may have felt that way to the fireman. But to Judy Ashley, the volunteers were larger than life heroes.

"I'm just so excited. This is a blessing from God," she said as she watched the firemen save her house.

The Carolina firefighters didn't know much about the south Mississippians they came to help. Other than Ashley, the homes they fixed were all owned by south Mississippi firemen.

Billy Smithwick is Windsor's fire chief.

"The only thing you do know is you've got something in common," he said, referring to the firemen his team helped. "You fight that monster, the fire."

A monster named Hurricane Floyd ravaged North Carolina homes in 1999. Afterward, these guys were on the receiving end of a visiting fire station's generosity.

"And you just kind of return the favor," Smithwick said. "That's why we're here, to help people out who need help. It's like helping save somebody's house. It's that same kind of feeling that you're doing something good for somebody else."

In this case, somebody else was a Gulfport woman who fought back tears as she watched a North Carolina rescue team save her house.

"Thank you Lord. I don't know what to say. Thank you Lord," Ashley said as she wiped away a tear.

The North Carolina firemen are temporarily living in the Delisle fire station trailer. They'll be on the coast until Saturday.