20 June 2024
Building Firefighting Resilience: Zhytomyr Communities Learned Best Practices from Neighbors
Building Firefighting Resilience: Zhytomyr Communities Learned Best Practices from Neighbors

Recently, ten communities from Zhytomyr Oblast learned the experience of firefighting and rescue brigades from Rivne Oblast during the 2-day study visit. The leadership of Chernyahiv, Chudniv, Hryshkivtsi, Irshansk, Khoroshiv, Korosten, Liubar, Zviahel, Teteriv, and Yemilchove communities participated in the visit.

Zhytomyr Oblast is an agrarian region and often suffers from fires in forests, fields, and private homes especially during dry seasons. To support the State Emergency Service in timely response to the emergencies, the communities started creating local volunteer firefighting brigades. The war made the local firefighting teams even more valuable.

Rivne Oblast is a leader in Ukraine in building a local security system. Therefore, the USAID HOVERLA Activity organized an exchange visit for Zhytomyr communities to study the best practices of their Rivne colleagues.


Vulnerability of Remote Villages


Ustia village is the most remote settlement in Korets community, situated 30 kilometers away from the center and connected by a damaged road. Hence, it is  extremely difficult for rescuers to reach Ustia when the fire occurs. In the last three months the fires  occurred four times in the village. Hence, the community prioritized the creation of a local firefighting team.


Members of the Ustia firefighting team


Ustia activists found an abandoned building, registered its ownership, and renovated it themselves. They received a fire truck from their Polish sister cities, won medical equipment in the "Firefighters" project, and received firefighting suits from the USAID HOVERLA Activity.

"We hired a team of four people on a payroll basis. On regular workdays, they mow grass and chop wood, and when they go out to fight a fire or have night shifts, they receive additional payments. There is also a voluntary community association that help," says Lyudmyla Dmytruk, Korets city mayor.


Firehouse before renovation

Firehouseтafter renovation


Volunteers Come to the Rescue


In Shpaniv community, no one from the firefighting team receives salaries. All members are volunteers. In 2019, the community representatives visited Poland to learn about the local security organizing. As soon as they returned, they decided to create their own voluntary firefighting team. After all, safety is no joke: the community experiences over 20 fires per year! They inspired the residents, created a team, repaired the premises, and secured support from the State Emergency Service and local authorities.

"When something is done with your own hands, it is valued more. Although we still have some legal issues to resolve, the main thing is that we maintain the spirit of volunteers. I can proudly say that the community is satisfied with our work," says Oleksandr Bozhuk, commander of the voluntary firefighting team of Shpaniv community.


Shpaniv community representatives tell about their security system


The community also uses the unique Fire Port notification system, provided by Europeans: it notifies volunteers with a ringtone and SMS about the fire, its nature, and the exact address. Within 15 minutes, the firefighters are already on the scene.

For motivation of firefighters, the local authorities organized the free waste collection and water supply for them. They also could receive a small plot of land.

Safety in the Focus


The Safety Center in Bila Krynytsia is the first of its kind in the West of Ukraine. It was built five years ago using funds from the local budget. Currently, the firefighting team comprises over two dozen volunteers, one of them even involved his brother and sons.

"When on the 18th day of the war, the TV tower was hit by a missile, resulting in the death of 21 people, our volunteers responded with necessary rescue efforts. At that moment, we felt the necessity of a firefighting team more than ever," says Tetiana Honcharuk, the Bila Krynytsia Mayor.


Members of the Bila Krynytsia fire brigade tell about their help during an accident on the Kyiv-Chop highway


To equip the team with all necessary tools for emergency response, the USAID HOVERLA Activity provided saws and other valuable equipment.

The Safety Center also employs personnel who can provide pre-medical assistance and has a special training room for children to prepare for emergencies.


Women's Crew


A distinctive feature of the Velyka Omeliana community is the voluntary women's firefighting team, which has been operating at the Safety Center for two months. The majority of the 20 volunteers are employees of the village council.

"We had to create such a team due to the challenges of war. Although women haven't had to participate in firefighting yet, they received training in Poland and constantly update their skills," says Liudmyla Benedyk, head of the legal support department of the Velyka Omelyana village council.


Women's fire brigade in Velyka Omeliana


Rivne communities recognize that their success was achieved due to adopting experiences from foreign partners and closely cooperating with state emergency services. During the visit, the communities met with the regional office of the SESU and learned about the regional security system.


Meeting of the Zhytomyr delegation with the Rivne Regional Department of the State Emergency Service


Community under Video Surveillance


The Zvyahel community is the only one in Zhytomyr Oblast with a voluntary firefighting brigade. It knows the value of safety from own experience.


Zviahel voluntary fire brigade


"The day before the visit, our community experienced a second large-scale shelling, which caused significant damage to infrastructure. A year ago, due to a missile attack, five houses were destroyed, and 20 were damaged. Our voluntary firefighting brigade spent a whole month clearing the rubble! One of the impulses for this unit creation was the equipment provided by the USAID HOVERLA Activity, which greatly helps us," says Iryna Hudz, the Zvyahel Deputy Mayor.


Clearing the rubble after missile attack in 2023


Zvyahel is located on a highway where about 20,000 cars pass per day, which creates additional value for the safety measures. The community was one of the first to develop the "Safe City" system with video surveillance and analytics. Sixty-three cameras are operating throughout the city, recognizing license plates, detecting speeding violations, and identifying fires.


Video surveillance system in Zvyagel


Impulse for Strengthening Community Safety


After the trip, the Zhytomyr official returned motivated, full of ideas, and eager to create firefighting units in their own communities.

"The examples of communities inspire! It was very useful to learn the legal details for creation of firefighting team," says Valentina Holovatiuk, secretary of the evacuation commission of the Hryshkivtsi community, Zhytomyr Oblast.


Delegation of Zhytomyr Oblast representatives in Korets community, Rivne Oblast


"It was very useful to find out how firefighters are employed, what are their job descriptions, how their work is organized, insured, trained, and how specialized equipment is accepted onto the balance sheet. The example of communities where only volunteers work impressed me! Now I believe that we can also find such motivated residents in our community!" adds Iryna Zavadska, head of the personnel and legal department of the Irshansk village council.

"While the Zvyahel community already has a firefighting team, we still have room to grow! Seeing the example of Ustia, I realized that we need to create such a team in remote villages as well. The modern notification system impressed me: the siren hasn't even sounded, and the firefighters are already on the scene. Thanks to the USAID HOVERLA Activity for providing the opportunity to exchange experiences and grow," notes Ruslan Kyryluk, head of the civil protection department of the Zvyahel city council.

If you want to create a firefighting and rescue unit in your community, learn an algorithm, receive samples of necessary documents, and valuable recommendations from the USAID HOVERLA Activity experts, please contact: dmytro_poturhaiev@hoverla.com.

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