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Alberta firefighter donations could save lives in Ukraine

Local firefighters help peers in Ukraine
WATCH ABOVE: A trip to Ukraine has inspired an Alberta firefighter to do something to help his brothers and sisters there. He says they're badly under-equipped. Quinn Ohler has more on the mission.

In a storage unit in Edmonton, firefighters combed through hundreds of pairs of firefighter turnout gear destined for Ukraine. The donations are just a small part of a big effort to bring life-saving equipment to first responders in the war-torn country as part of Firefighter Aid for Ukraine.

The effort comes four years after Kevin Royle visited the country on a Rotary Group Study Exchange focusing on emergency services.

“All of our tours of fire stations, hospitals and clinics, we kept observing the same thing,” the Edmonton firefighter said. “Empty storage shelves and first responders trying to do a job with no basic equipment.”

Royle wanted to help those he’d met on that trip. After dealing with personal tragedies, he eventually got together with another firefighter to go on a fact-finding mission to Ukraine to find out what supplies were most needed.

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When they got home, the volunteers started developing a plan and approaching local fire departments, businesses and other municipalities to inquire about retired equipment and supplies.

“Some of the bunker gear [there] is older than guys on the job here,” Royle said.

They goal is to collect more than 400 sets of firefighter turnout gear. They also are hoping to fill a 12-metre long shipping container with medical supplies, tools and emergency response equipment.

They’ve had local businesses donate medical supplies and clean the gear they’ve received for free and fire departments from across the province have offered to chip in and help.

“It’ll go a long way in Ukraine,” Olesia Luciw-Andryjowycz, the president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Alberta Provincial Council, said. She explained funding for first responders has been reallocated to the military.

“There’s a war in Ukraine so there isn’t funding to help the firefighters rebuild.”

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The fight to bring equipment to first responders grew even more personal in the Spring. Royle said two of the firefighters he was working with in that country were killed when they responded to a landfill fire.

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The shipping container is expected to leave at the beginning of 2017 and it will take three weeks for it to arrive in Ukraine. A group of volunteers with Firefighter Aid for Ukraine, as well as the Rotary Club of Canada will be there to help hand out the supplies in four regions: Lviv, Transcarpathia, Ivano-Frankivsk and Chernivtsi.

For more information you can visit the Firefighter Aid for Ukraine website.

Watch below: Some Alberta firefighters are doing what they can to offer help to Ukrainian firefighters who could really use it. Gord Steinke spoke with some firefighters about their donation efforts.

Alberta firefighters step in to help counterparts in Ukraine
Alberta firefighters step in to help counterparts in Ukraine
Edmonton firefighter shows equipment to firefighters in Ukraine.
Edmonton firefighter shows equipment to firefighters in Ukraine. Courtesy Kevin Royle
Fire truck in Ukraine.
Fire truck in Ukraine. Courtesy Kevin Royle
Front of a fire truck in Ukraine.
Front of a fire truck in Ukraine. Courtesy Kevin Royle
Back seat of Ukrainian fire truck
Back seat of Ukrainian fire truck Courtesy Kevin Royle
Fire gear in Ukraine.
Fire gear in Ukraine. Courtesy Kevin Royle
Medical supplies in Ukraine.
Medical supplies in Ukraine. Courtesy Kevin Royle
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Hospital room in Ukraine.
Hospital room in Ukraine.