Firefighters in York and North Yorkshire were so deeply moved by the plight of their compatriots in New York, they raised more than £125,000. STEVE CARROLL reports on their efforts

WHEN Paul Warnock visited New York, barely weeks after September 11, he found a city still shocked to the core. The Tadcaster-based firefighter had booked his trip along with his brother and friend - both firemen at York - in January.

Laden with letters from Evening Press readers, Paul arranged to meet New York firefighters still coming to terms with the loss of friends and colleagues.

He took with him the best wishes of a region.

Paul said: "We went to the Fire Department headquarters in Brooklyn for the presentation of our gift and the letters.

"They were very grateful and touched for the letter knowing the people of York and the UK were thinking about them."

There is a fraternity among firefighters wherever they are.

And it was that camaraderie that drove North Yorkshire and York firefighters to act when they witnessed the fall of the twin towers.

Barry Kirkpatrick, former station commander at York, summed up the mood of the brigade as they watched the hijacked aeroplanes strike the two World Trade Centre towers and the Pentagon. No-one said a word. "We stared in disbelief. What was running through our minds was that lots of firefighters would now be on their way, and would be inside, when the buildings came down.

"We knew that every resource would be in those towers. As the towers collapsed, we knew a lot of firemen were dying."

Firefighters say it's not unusual for one of their US buddies to drop in if they happen to be visiting York. They do the same when they are in America.

That's why they decided to raise money. Barry added: "It was the firefighters who decided to do it. The first I knew was when someone slapped £200 on my desk. I think they all wanted to do something to help."

"Fill the boot" became the motto as firefighters collected across the city. There was no shortage of donations.

Complete strangers walked up and thrust notes into their hands, they were even clapped as they went about their task. The dangers of their job had been brought home to everyone.

Barry, who now works at brigade headquarters, said: "We collected for the New York firefighters but we left them alone.

When things like that happen, the last thing the local brigade needs is lots of extra communication."

He thinks that giving cash gave people in York and North Yorkshire the chance to come to terms with, and feel better about, the terrible tragedy.

"We were delighted to be involved in raising the money. Everyone who could help wanted to anyway. It made them feel better that they could do something and the public could give money."

Close links were formed in the midst of tragedy but, as they will never forget the spectre of September 11, neither will New York firefighters forget the support and friendship they received from their neighbours across the water.