CHICAGO (CBS) — 22 Chicago firefighters, along with 30th ward Ald. Ariel Reboyras, have returned from nine days of emergency duty in hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico.

Their work day began before dawn and sometimes lasted into the night, and their job was to get supplies and preform well-being checks in places no one else could reach.

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Incident Commander Juan Hernandez says the devastation is several times worse than what you’re seeing on TV and the Internet.

“Broken bridges, roads disconnected, there’s an area where there’s about 200 individuals that are totally disconnected from civilization.” Hernandez said the other way to get food and medical supplies to them was to use a zip line.

Hernandez says power and cell phone service remains minimal, and delivery of supplies shipped from the states can be a problem.

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“It is emotional. You want to stay focused on what you’re doing. We have family members that are in trouble. I mean, I have family members that I haven’t been able to get in contact with, yet, and make sure they’re okay,” Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago said before heading to Puerto Rico. “Members are going there concerned, but their mission first: help Puerto Rico fire department first.”

Santiago said 20 of the 22 firefighters are bilingual. The commissioner said another 400 members of the department also volunteered to go, even offering to pay their own way.

The men and women making the trip had to use their vacation time to go to Puerto Rico.

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To donate, a list of organizations and charities can be found on the city’s website.