Local governments on Vancouver Island have stepped up to the call from North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring to join the municipality in donating any spare firefighting equipment they have to help out firefighters in Odesa, Ukraine.
Siebring said at the council meeting on April 20 that he spread the word about the need among Odesa’s fire halls for firefighting equipment at the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities meeting earlier this month in Victoria, and many regional districts and municipalities offered to help.
“But all ran into the same problem, which is the hard costs of shipping equipment over there,” he told council.
“Just in the context of North Cowichan alone, the shipping costs of sending our spare firefighting equipment is more than $10,000.”
But Siebring said he received an email from the Vancouver-based Defend Ukraine Foundation which provided some good news with an offer to help.
He said the non-government foundation, which was recently formed in response to the needs precipitated by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, has already shipped several tonnes of medical, humanitarian and other supplies to Ukraine since Russian forces invaded it two months ago, and has offered to help send the Island’s donated firefighting gear to the country.
“They want to do this by partnering with Firefighter Aid Ukraine out of Edmonton,” Siebring said.
“This group has a history of providing gear to firefighters in Ukraine for almost a decade. Late last week, I forwarded an update to those municipalities and regional districts that had offered to participate that they can now send their gear to a warehouse in Burnaby that is administered by the Defend Ukraine Foundation, and they are working with some trucking companies to get the supplies to Edmonton from where it will be shipped to Ukraine.”
Siebring said the local governments will still be responsible for getting their equipment to Burnaby, but shipping to the Lower Mainland city is a lot cheaper than shipping it all the way to Ukraine.
“They are hoping to have all the equipment received on its way to Edmonton by the end of next week,” he said.
Siebring began to advocate for local governments to send spare firefighting equipment to Ukraine after he recently received a phone call from his friend Ken Charko asking for assistance. Charko is a Ukrainian who lives in Vancouver but returned to the Ukrainian port city of Odesa to help out as best he can as the city faces increased bombing from Russian forces.
“He was deeply distressed by the aftermath of the overnight bombing there; most specifically the fact that the fire department in Odesa is seriously under-equipped to deal with the kinds of fires that have broken out there,” Siebring said at the time.