N.Y. FFs collect gear for Ukrainian FFs

Firefighters throughout the U.S. have been sending items to New Ukrainian Wave-Passaic, a nonprofit handling shipping and distribution


Craig Fox
Watertown Daily Times, N.Y.

BELLEVILLE, N.Y. — Jay J. Canzonier cannot imagine being without turnout gear and fighting a fire in just a T-shirt and jeans.

But that's what a Ukrainian firefighter recently was up against as the war against Russia raged around him.

When a childhood friend called to tell him that firefighters in New Jersey were doing something to help their brothers in Ukraine, Mr. Canzonier knew he could count on fire departments across Jefferson County.

Mr. Canzonier, a longtime volunteer firefighter with the Belleville Fire Department, is heading local efforts to collect turnout gear for firefighters in Ukraine.

"It's a small part in a big effort," he said.

Fire departments across the country are trying to collect as much out-of-date gear as they can for Ukrainian firefighters.

It all began with his childhood friend, Lt. Mark Drew, a professional firefighter in Clifton, N.J., and his colleague Oleg Skachko, who got a call from a friend in Ukraine asking for help from the firefighting community.

"The two of them immediately went to work and instantaneously went into gear," Mr. Canzonier said.

Members of a 143-person professional fire department, the two New Jersey firefighters also received word from Ukrainian emergency prevention and civil protection officials in the city of Lviv to help.

"I feel very proud that we can help," Lt. Drew said.

The first shipment of 400 units of personal protective equipment went out a few days ago, while efforts from firefighters across the country continue.

In the north country, Mr. Canzonier hopes to collect 100 sets of turnout gear. All 42 departments in Jefferson County were contacted. So far, more than 20 have been able to help.


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Fellow Belleville firefighter Joshua D. Biggs saw the need and got involved.

"Seeing Ukrainian firefighters without needed gear is sad," he said.

Old turnout coats and pants, helmets, gloves, Nomex hoods and boots neatly sit in piles on four foldout tables in Mr. Canzonier's barn at North Branch Farms on Lake Road in Belleville.

Firefighters are also collecting axes, Halligan tools, stretchers, long boards, cervical collars, disposable gloves and a variety of other equipment.

Depending on the amount collected locally, Mr. Canzonier plans to load up all the gear in his big red vegetable truck or rent a truck and drive 250 miles to Clifton, N.J., the national collection point.

Fire departments from Colorado, Texas, Michigan, Ohio and other states have responded to the call.

Firefighters in New Jersey are working with a nonprofit group, New Ukrainian Wave-Passaic, and Meest-America, a freight company that specializes in shipping to Eastern Europe, to get the gear to Ukraine.

New Ukrainian Wave is taking care of the logistics such as packaging, shipping and distribution in Ukraine, as well as the costs involved.

The gear will land in Poland and eventually be taken across the Ukrainian border to the firefighters who desperately need it.

The collection began last week and is supposed to end on March 23. But with the bombing in Ukrainian cities continuing, the need for equipment will last much longer.

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(c)2022 Watertown Daily Times

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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