'Sister city' support: Fire service leaders reflect on challenges facing Ukrainian fire crews

Chicago and Cincinnati leaders laud the steadfast efforts of Ukrainian firefighters working in a warzone


By Janelle Foskett

KYIV, Ukraine — Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last week, many Ukrainian fire crews have found themselves at the center of a warzone.

Many firefighters from around the world quickly took to social media to offer their support and admiration for their Ukrainian counterparts facing fires and technical rescue operations sparked by military attack.

Now, the fire chiefs connected to Ukrainian “sister cities” are offering messages of support to their brother and sister firefighters overseas. A sister city relationship is a partnership between two communities in two countries, recognized by the highest elected or appointed official from both communities.

Chicago Fire Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt – Sister City: Kyiv

Chicago Fire Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt shared with FireRescue1 these words of support for fire crews in sister city Kyiv and throughout the country: 

Fighting fires under normal circumstances can be deadly for first responders and citizens alike. However, what our brothers and sisters in Ukraine are experiencing is nothing short of heartbreaking. The Chicago Fire Department watches in amazement while these brave men and women continue to run toward danger even during a military attack. We will keep our Sister City Kyiv in our thoughts and prayers.”

Additionally, in response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has directed World Business Chicago to suspend Chicago’s sister city relationship with Moscow.

Cincinnati Fire Chief Michael Washington – Sister City: Kharkiv

Cincinnati Fire Chief Michael Washington offered these reflections on the situation in Ukraine, specifically the hard-hit residential area of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city and Cincinnati's sister city:

We’ve had civil unrest in Cincinnati, but that’s nothing like a warzone. The risk that these firefighters and medical personnel in Ukraine are facing with the ballistic munitions is a challenge. Fire that’s caused by an explosive device is very different than fire caused from food on the stove or a heat source or an electrical fire. The amount of damage to the infrastructure, roads, water supply systems is something we haven’t faced since earlier wars, mostly in other areas of the world. The firefighters continue to deliver service without the infrastructure. More importantly, being in harm’s way on the front lines, not being able to go home – in some cases not having a home to go to – speaks volumes about the Ukrainian firefighters. We stand in support of the firefighters in Ukraine. I’m amazed at their steadfast dedication to emergency services work. They are still doing it knowing what the potential outcome could be for both themselves and their citizens. We take an oath every day – you know you could give your life for someone you’ve never met, but the likelihood of them giving their life in a warzone is much higher.”

In this handout photo taken from video released by Ukrainian Police Department Press Service released on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022, firefighters inspect the damage at a building following a rocket attack on the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. Russia is pressing its invasion of Ukraine to the outskirts of the capital. That comes a day after it unleashed airstrikes on cities and military bases and sent in troops and tanks from three sides. (Ukrainian Police Department Press Service via AP)
Ambulance paramedics move an injured man on a stretcher, wounded by shelling in a residential area, at the maternity hospital converted into a medical ward and used as a bomb shelter in Mariupol, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 1, 2022. Russian strikes on the key southern port city of Mariupol seriously wounded several people. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
Firefighters rest after working extinguising an apartment building damaged following a rocket attack, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. Russian troops stormed toward Ukraine's capital Saturday, and street fighting broke out as city officials urged residents to take shelter. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

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Firefighters share support for Ukrainian fire crews on front lines of military action

Social media posts highlight the challenges faced by Ukrainian fire crews 'standing tall, doing their job' during Russian invasion


FireRescue1 will continue to share news about the conflict in Ukraine as it relates to the fire service.

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