Jared Reynolds is currently leading a third project to support the war-torn country, collecting warm clothes with his colleagues at North Vancouver Fire and Rescue, as winter takes hold.
“Russia has been targeting some of the hydro power stations in Ukraine, so it’s left a lot of homes without electricity, which is their main source of heat,” Reynolds explained.
“There’s a ton of people who are at risk of freezing out this winter.”
Reynolds recently returned from the region, where he said he saw a number of “underdressed” people at the border between Ukraine and Poland. With financial support from his peers, he had flown there to deliver about 400 pounds of critical medical supplies.
Distributing them, however, turned out to be complicated.
“It’s not like in Canada where you can just rent a car … there’s limited fuel, there’s limited options,” Reynolds told Global News.
“Once I got the gear to my hotel room, I actually took a bus down to the border … looked at the border and kind of figured out if that was a realistic option to cross, and it quickly became apparent that getting into Ukraine would be okay, but getting out would become difficult just due to the amount of people leaving.”
Reynolds said he was able to pass the gear off to a fire department in Krakow, which passed it onto another fire department in Ukraine, which was able to distribute it to medics on the frontlines.
“Honestly it was a team effort,” he said, crediting his firefighting peers, his pregnant wife, and his boss for allowing him to take the time off.
The project came to fruition just months after Reynolds — by chance — discovered an old NATO-standard field hospital at a North Vancouver training facility, and launched a team effort to send it to Ukraine.
The equipment, including 200 beds and 200 field stretchers along with bedding and blankets, was originally deployed to Vancouver Island in 1970, before being transferred to North Shore Emergency Management, where it sat for decades in case of a natural disaster.
With help from the Defend Ukraine foundation, the District of North Vancouver firefighters union and charitable foundation, and CP Rail, the goods made their way to six cities in eastern and southern Ukraine.
“It’s definitely being used,” Reynolds said, adding that some of the photos that have been sent of the equipment in action are “pretty tough” to look at.
North Vancouver Fire and Rescue will send its shipping container full of warm winter wear overseas on Dec. 20. Members of the public can drop off hats, mitts, jackets, scarves, blankets and more at fire stations across the North Shore until Dec. 18.
“Firefighter Reynolds — we’re super proud of him. He’s taking on the initiative to do this project,” Assistant Fire Chief Chris Byrom said. “We’re extremely proud of our department for getting behind this project.”
Russia, meanwhile, has maintained its intense attacks on Ukrainian territory, recently shelling towns near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, leaving more than 9,000 homes without running water, according to local Ukrainian officials.
Moscow has also recently blamed Kyiv for drone strikes on two air bases deep inside Russia and launched a new wave of missile strikes on Ukrainian territory. Ukrainian officials have not formally confirmed carrying out the drone attacks, maintaining their apparent policy of deliberate ambiguity as they have done in the past when it comes to high-profile attacks on Russian targets.
— With files from The Associated Press and Global News’ Simon Little