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Local firefighter leads mission to help search and rescue efforts in Ukraine

Posted at 7:22 PM, Apr 10, 2022

BALBOA PARK, Calif. (KGTV) — Right now a team of first responders is on their way to help with the search and rescue efforts in Ukraine.

One of them is a firefighter from San Diego County who helped make the mission possible.

"It's to help our fellow firefighters over there. That's what this is all about," said Eric Hille, an engineer with San Miguel Fire Rescue.

Since the war began, the House of Ukraine has received tons of donations from medical equipment and military gear to clothes and diapers, but not much has been for Ukrainian firefighters.

That's where Hille saw a chance to help.

“These are people that are on the frontlines that could have fled and they didn’t. They still stayed and kept their oath to protect their cities but nobody was sending them anything so that’s how this mission got started," he said.

Hille was able to collect 26 pallets of fire and rescue equipment that are now on a plane to the war-torn country.

“We’re sending what they call cutters, spreaders, rams, and power units," he said.

However, Hille said the first responders in Ukraine didn't know how to use some of the tools.

"So from there I said alright what would it take to get firefighters on a plane to escort it all over and that’s where we’re at now," Hille said.

With the help of fellow firefighters, Hille formed a team of eleven first responders to take part in what he calls Project Joint Guardian. Nine members are from the United States. One is from Germany and one is from Australia.

Once on the ground in Ukraine, they'll help train firefighters on how to use the donated equipment as well as with search and rescue efforts.

“We won’t really be working in areas I would say Russian forces will be close by but then again they are firing rockets indiscriminately," Hille said.

As a military veteran, Hille said he understands the risks. But he said to serve and protect is in his blood.

“That’s exactly what we’ve going to be doing over there... serving and protecting, and providing aid," Hille said.

Hille said he'll be in Ukraine for two weeks.