When it comes to fighting fires, no country is an island. Firefighters from different nations often share their knowledge and expertise to improve their capabilities and enhance the safety of their communities. Especially, when we talk about defenders from Ukraine.
A team of Ukrainian firefighters recently traveled to the United States as part of the “Help Ukrainian Firefighters in Need” project. The Polsky Foundation organized their trip.
The Ukrainian firefighters spent two weeks in the United States. During that time, they worked alongside American firefighters and learned about firefighting techniques and equipment used in the United States. The team visited several fire stations in different states and participated in training exercises, drills, and other activities to improve their skills and knowledge.
First, Ukrainian firefighters Roman Kachanov, Oleksii Chernomorchenko, and Serhii Bilous traveled to the United States to participate in a firefighting H.O.T. program and an FDIC conference in Indianapolis, Illinois, where they received hands-on training and attended lectures on the latest firefighting techniques.
Inspiring a heartwarming standing ovation from the FDIC participants during the opening ceremony. Meeting Eric Schlett, our friend, partner and FDIC Executive Vice President, was a great honor. It was a pleasure to get such support.
- “It was indeed my pleasure! I have made lifelong friends with this fantastic team! I look forward to the war ending favorably for the Ukrainian people and visiting them in Ukraine and at FDIC”, said Eric Schlett.
VISITING FIRE DEPARTMENTS
The visit also allowed the Ukrainian firefighters to share their experiences and expertise with their American counterparts. The Ukrainian team has faced many challenges in their own country, including more resources and funding. They could share their strategies for dealing with these challenges with the American firefighters. They visited several cities and fire departments, including Indianapolis, Amboy, Sterling, Bedford, Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C.
They were impressed by the professionalism and dedication shown by their American counterparts, and they were keen to learn as much as they could from them.
- “This trip was full of pleasant surprises. It was exciting to go through various training sessions shoulder to shoulder with firefighters from all over the world, during which we could learn new work techniques and teach them our own. I also really enjoyed the entertainment that was organized in the evenings. These cool events allow you to communicate with firefighters from different departments and ranks. Now it is time to return to our homeland of Kharkiv, where we will share and apply the experience gained in our work”, says Serhii Bilous, Chief of Guard No. 8 in Kharkiv’s fire and rescue division.
MEETING WITH THE POLSKY FOUNDATION
It was a special event for the Ukrainian firefighters in the office of the Polsky Foundation. This foundation has organized their trip to the U.S. and their participation in the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Exhibition (FDIC). Polsky Foundation members and Help Ukrainian Firefighters in Need project co-founder Yana Feyganova have collected gear for Ukrainian firefighters over the last year.
During their visit to the Polsky Foundation office, the Ukrainian firefighters had the opportunity to introduce themselves, engage in conversations, and express their heartfelt appreciation for the foundation’s support. They shared their experiences, passionate dedication to their profession, and stories about how they have been coping with the challenges they face in their daily work since the beginning of the war.
- “I am incredibly flattered by the support and attention the Americans have given us. The welcome was hot, and the people were open, sincere, and positive. America is about amazing people who are very responsive and straightforward, which is very striking. Thanks to the Polsky Foundation team, the fact that they organized this trip, provided the logistics, the incredible amount of donations, and the opportunity to exchange experiences – we are here now, gaining experience, representing our country, and sharing our baggage of knowledge. Our partners are amazing people, and thank you for this experience and exposure”, remembers Roman Kachanov, Kharkiv’s chief’s eleventh fire and rescue department.
The project organizers, Michael and Tanya Polsky, and Yana Feyganova, project co-founder, hope this will be the first of many such visits and will lead to increased cooperation and collaboration between firefighters from Ukraine and the United States.
- “It was a fantastic experience, and we are proud of everything! When it formed a year ago, helping firefighters from Kharkiv was the organization’s priority. Since the first day of the war, the situation in this region has been tragic, with many hot zones and frequent attacks and fires. Ukrainian firefighters must contact their colleagues worldwide to bring new technologies to Ukraine, exchange knowledge, improve practical skills, get acquainted with foreign market equipment and quality standards, and make a statement about Ukraine and military conflict on every possible platform. Ukrainian rescuers need more resources and information support now than ever”, says Yana Feyganova, Help Ukrainian Firefighters in Need co-founder.
PARTNERS AND DONATIONS
In addition to the firefighting training, the Ukrainian firefighters could participate in cultural events and different meetings and explore some tourist attractions in the cities they visited. For example, we have met with the Ukrainian diaspora and communities, visited our partners – Help Razom and United Help Ukraine, and also met Fire Chief David Caulk, who donated some gear.
Our great friend and partner, Ukrainian-American firefighter Oleg Skachko a year ago saw a need for equipment for front-line emergency responders in Ukraine. Hence, he and his coworkers donated theirs. Since then, Oleg has assisted and supported all the Help Ukrainian Firefighters in Need project initiatives and participated in FDIC with the Ukrainian team.
- “You see the brotherhood in the United States and other countries. Everybody comes in at once in a time of need. I am sure we will find the pictures of the flag and the gear making it to the front lines where they need it right now. Ukrainian firefighters, my colleagues, and brothers, are true heroes. Proud to be part of their community, their team, and stand together with them”, tells Oleg Skachko, a firefighter in Clifton, NJ Fire Department.
VISITING U.S. FIRE ADMINISTRATION
Another significant part of their visit was a meeting with Chief Tonya Hoover, Deputy Fire Administrator, and Superintendent Eriks Gabliks, Director of the National Fire Academy. Together they discussed the situation in Ukraine; firefighters talked about the war crimes in Ukraine and the daily difficulties that Ukrainian defenders face.
TO SUM UP
The visit was a success on many levels, with the Ukrainian and American firefighters benefiting from exchanging knowledge and experience.
- “This trip allowed us to present Ukraine and our fire and rescue service in the international arena to show what difficulties rescuers face in their work in the war zone. We received the support of foreign partners ready to assist Ukraine, rescuers. During the training, it was interesting to exchange experience with rescuers from all over the world and learn how they work in certain situations”, resumes Oleksii Chernomorchenko, the deputy head of the department in charge of telecommunication systems, technical information protection, and technical radio control at the Kharkiv region’s Center for Operational Communication, Telecommunication Systems, and Information Technology.
The “Help Ukrainian Firefighters in Need” project was launched in 2022, when the full-scale war in Ukraine started, and has since provided training, equipment, and other forms of support to Ukrainian firefighters. The project aims to improve the capabilities of Ukrainian firefighters, who now face difficult working conditions and a lack of resources.
Overall, the recent visit by the Ukrainian firefighters to the United States was a positive step towards improving the capabilities and skills of firefighters in both countries. The exchange of knowledge and experience will undoubtedly lead to better firefighting practices and improved safety for firefighters and their communities around the world.