Ukrainian firefighters, medical personnel and schools will soon get much-needed equipment as a local community group prepares to deliver another cargo of humanitarian supplies to the embattled country.
Members of the grassroots Langford-Global Medic Ukraine Project, including retired Langford fire chief Bob Beckett, travelled to Ukraine last summer to deliver supplies.
While there, Beckett met with civic officials and firefighters to discuss what they needed.
Next month — the exact date is not being revealed due to security concerns — members of the group will return with close to $75,000 in firefighting and extraction equipment, as well as medical and school supplies.
“When we asked: ‘How can we help?’ the Ukrainians responded with a shopping list of hard-to-find items,” said Beckett.
High on the list was an extraction tool used by firefighters to rescue people from bombed-out buildings.
George Klemm of KGC Fire Rescue, a company that sells and services rescue equipment for firefighters. said the goal was to send something that is small and portable — “something they can repair and something that would round out any fire department’s capacity.”
The tool the group is sending, a Holmatro Combitool CT 3150, is a versatile spreader and cutter that is light and can be easily carried to the scene of a collapsed building by one person, but is heavy-duty enough to cut through one-inch rebar to reach someone who was trapped, Klemm said.
The make and model was also chosen because it’s used around the world, and thus would be familiar to technicians in the country who would service it. Just to be on the safe side, however, they are packing couplers and other spare parts with the machine.
Beckett, as a former firefighter, says he has worked with the unit and can spend time in the country to train Ukrainian firefighters not familiar with its operation.
Langford Fire Rescue has also taken an interest in helping their colleagues half a world away, donating surplus and lightly used helmets, coveralls, fire-fighting equipment and turn-out gear — the heavy fire-resistant clothing firefighters wear when battling a fire.
“We are happy to take donations and thankful to the community for their support,” said Chris Aubrey, Langford fire chief. “While we are a witness to the worst of humanity, there is a silver lining in that we also see the best of humanity. We see people supporting each other by stepping up to help — like the team going over to make a difference in the lives of people in the Ukraine.”
The fire station has also been collecting items donated by the public. The crew has been assessing and refurbishing equipment that may be useful to their counterparts in Ukraine.
For example, they will drain out water, run and confirm the operation of a portable compressor, used by firefighters to run some of their equipment.
“We don’t want to send them equipment that doesn’t run,” said Aubrey.
Langford Fire Rescue’s Station One, on Peatt Road at Veterans Memorial Parkway, has also been accepting monetary donations for the mission.
WUNDERfund, an acronym for Ukrainian National Defence Emergency Relief fund, was able to secure a $5,000 orthopedic surgical power tool that resembles a cordless portable drill for use by surgeons operating on injured soldiers and civilians.
The not-for-profit, which calls itself a collective of volunteers raising funds for Ukraine, typically sends non-lethal equipment, such as protective gear, warm clothing, water filters, first-aid and medical supplies.
“We are providing aid, training and consultancy,” said Jon Schmid, co-founder of the group.
While securing the $5,000 drill was significant, he is also hoping to be able to introduce Ukrainian doctors to an alternative developed by a Victoria company that costs significantly less, at $500.
The company offers a sterilizable cover that turns an inexpensive hardware drill into a sterile surgical device. Ukrainian doctors operating on broken bones and fractures are familiar with the former, but have no experience with the latter.
Schmid said that there is the potential to help more injured people if they can purchase more of the lower-cost drills.
The group has provided two surgeons returning to the Ukraine with a B.C.- made orthopedic drill for evaluation.
WUNDERfund raises funds by selling handmade jewelry pieces that have been crafted by youth volunteers in the community.
Monk Office, a local supplier of office equipment, has also provided $10,000 worth of school supplies.
All the donations will be stuffed into 17 hockey bags that will accompany the team delivering the supplies and equipment to schools and a fire department in a city of 12,000 inhabitants (the name is not being revealed due to security concerns).
Beckett said Air Canada has been very accommodating with the team’s oversized luggage requirements.
When the team returns to Canada, it will leave behind a souvenir for the Ukrainians.
“While it’s common to use hockey bags as a carrier for all sorts of items in Canada, the Ukrainians were puzzled at first on what they were and their intended use,” said Beckett. “We plan to leave the bags behind as an unique reminder of Canadian solidarity with Ukraine.”
Monetary donations are welcome. Cheques can be made out to Langford-Global Medic Ukraine Project and dropped off at Langford Fire Rescue Station One, 2625 Peatt Rd.