The first shipment of surplus gear collected by firefighters across the country to help firefighters in Ukraine has reached Kyiv.
“The first day we got into the Kyiv region, that night a fire station received heavy damage,” said Eric Hille of California, who is one of nine U.S. firefighters on the ground in Ukraine to help as part of Project Joint Guardian. “I believe they said 12 firefighters were injured. And then just prior to us getting in here they had a fire engine strike a landmine that critically injured the crew on the fire engine.”
“They are still showing up to work to fight fires, to help with technical rescues and building collapses, and when they’re off shift, they have to go home and help protect their families,” Hille said.
Hille said 35 Ukrainian firefighters have died in the war since it began.
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Others, joined by firefighters from the U.S., Germany and Australia, are constantly in harm’s way as they do the grim work of searching for the dead and survivors among shelled out buildings.
“Easter Sunday we recovered two bodies that day,” Hille said. “The house next to us they had land mines in the front yard.”
The gear that was donated to Ukraine can’t be used in the U.S. anymore because of its age, but it’s still viable, and in Ukraine it’s a godsend.
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The contingent of 11 foreign firefighters in Ukraine with Project Joint Guardian is expected to be there until the end of the month. Another team is poised to be mobilized after that, and 12 more pallets of gear for search and rescue is also on the way.