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Sault Ste. Marie tree crew assisting with fallen trees, debris after massive hurricane hits southern U.S.

Wilderness Environmental Services, a Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., utility arborist company, has sent this crew of workers into the southern U.S. to help with the cleanup after Hurricane Irma. (Wilderness Environmental Services)
Utility crews in southern parts of the United States will be starting work to get power restored to customers affected by Hurricane Irma.

Thirteen million people are estimated to have been affected by power outages.

Good news for Florida residents: they’ll be receiving a helping hand from northern neighbours.

Hydro One announced Monday that it was sending 175 employees to Florida to help with restoration efforts.

And a group of utility arborists from Sault Ste Marie, Ont., have also traveled to Florida to help.

Utility arborists are skilled trades people who help clear away downed trees and debris, and work alongside linesmen to help reconnect power.

Jake, one of the 21 crew members of Wilderness Environmental Services, poses in front of the landscape of service vehicles in Georgia while awaiting orders to deploy to Florida. (Wilderness Environmental Services)

Rob Brewer, president of Wilderness Environmental Services told CBC News his 21 workers want to help get customers back on the grid.

“The utility company down there, through FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] pays us and then we pay our guys,” Brewer said. “But the guys don’t go down there for the money.”

“Being away from your family for two, three, four, five weeks isn’t something that they do for a dollar.”

Brewer says his crew is waiting for the winds to die down before they start working alongside linesmen from Duke Energy.

“We work out of bucket trucks that are 60-70 feet in the air, so high winds aren’t safe,” he said.

Snakes and alligators…that type of thing

And although his crew is very experienced, he says there will still be a few new challenges.

“There’s downed trees that are under tension. There’s power lines that are down..some live. There’s flooding and then there’s wildlife down there that certainly we’re not used to, you know, things like snakes and alligators and that type of thing.”

Brewer says his crew could be in Florida as little as two weeks, or as long as two months, depending on how long it takes to restore electricity to the area.

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