June 16, 2003 -- Six Brooklyn firefighters rescued four kittens which had been clinging desperately to soda cans in a rain-swollen sewer.

"Those guys came in here for four little creatures that for some people are worthless - but not for them," Neide Barabas, president of the group "Friends of Strays," said yesterday. "It was a mission of love."

Barabas got a call Saturday from an East New York woman terrified the kittens would drown in a storm drain at Liberty and Autumn avenues. When Barabas arrived, the kittens were on cans that had been thrown away as garbage.

Barabas walked to the headquarters of Engine 236 and told Lt. Sean McNally what was happening.

He and firefighters Chris Crimi, Kenny Giannelli, James Helfrich, Steve Razickas and Joe McGovern rushed to the rescue.

By then the kittens had abandoned their soda-can life rafts for a drainage pipe in the sewer. The firefighters devised a "catwalk" by lowering a board.

When the kittens climbed on their new bridge, Crimi's colleagues held onto his legs while they lowered him far enough to grab three, but the fourth was too terrified to climb to safety.

Finally, said Barabas, it was lured within reach with an open can of tuna.

Anyone interested in adopting the kittens should call Friends of Strays at (718) 969-6688.