Russia-Ukraine War

Bay Area Firefighters Join Recovery Efforts in Ukraine

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Dozens of bodies continue to be discovered as the war in Ukraine goes on and a team of U.S. firefighters, including two from the Bay Area, have joined recovery efforts.

“This is a little different than responding to a 911 call, this is an active war that’s going on here and it's hard to see that because I’ve never seen that before,” said David Zalutskiy of the Contra Costa County Fire District. 

For the past few weeks, the region outside of Kyiv was the heart of the war zone between Ukraine and Russia.

First responders from around the world walked through the rubble Wednesday searching for bodies and among those searching was Zalutskiy.

“I was actually born in Ukraine, I have family here still and ever since the war started I've been feeling a little heavy in the heard, just seeing what’s been going on in the news and wishing I could be there to help,” he said.

A few weeks ago, he signed up with the Firefighters United Task Force Joint Guardian for a rescue and recovery mission in Ukraine.

Thanks to his brother, who still lives there, the entire team was able to cross the border with vans and all of their equipment.

Once in Ukraine, they were escorted into Kyiv. 

“They were very welcoming, very appreciative of us being here,” said Zalutskiy.

That’s when their mission began.

On Sunday, the team recovered two bodies, including a man they say was yelling for help for two days.

“Nobody was able to help him because the enemy forces were in that area, and he basically suffered because he was buried in the collapse of his own home,” said Zalutskiy.

They’ve also been training Ukrainian firefighters on debris removal and other trauma response techniques.

Zalutskiy said he and his team are aware of the dangers, including the looming nuclear threats.  

On Wednesday morning, Russia test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile.

“We do have a plan to get out as soon as possible, we know the zones of nuclear power,” said Zalutskiy.

He hopes it doesn't come down to that.

The plan is for him to stay there until at least next week trying to offer closure to those who have suffered so much  

“Love your loved ones, hold them closer, war is not fun, just appreciate what you have, don’t take anything for granted,” said Zalutskiy.

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