San Diego Firefighter Leading SoCal ‘Guardians' on Relief Mission in Ukraine


A San Diego-area firefighter is looking for a few good men and women in the fire service to join him in Ukraine for a relief mission.

The "Task Force Joint Guardian" group is collecting much-needed firefighting equipment that they will shepherd to Ukraine's war-torn communities.

They’ll spend two weeks there helping the beleaguered departments with search and rescue and other critical services.

With the rockets and bombs blasting civilian areas of Ukraine, firefighting has reached a new level of danger.

“In the fire service, one of the things you’ll always hear is, it's either 'Them before us,' or 'Service over self,' and that’s what they are exemplifying right now,” San Miguel Fire & Rescue engineer Eric Hille said.

Hille is not intimidated. He is inspired. He's spent much of his free time recruiting volunteers and asking for donations of fire equipment and money to take to Ukraine.

“'What tech rescue training do you have?' I am asking, for example, about building collapse, trench rescue and auto accident experience,” Hille said.

The donation effort hit a snag when the Joint Guardian's GoFundMe page was taken down.

A GoFundMe spokesperson sent the following statement in an email to NBC 7.

“At this time, we are not allowing fundraising for any war effort support, regardless of the country, which can include funding weapons, any supplies to soldiers, and propaganda. Nor travel to any location to support military or propaganda efforts,” spokesperson Leigh Lehman said.  

Hille is not discouraged. He has set up a new account under the nonprofit organization US/Mexico Firefighters United at Chase bank.

He says the response to the mission is overwhelming. So far, 25 firefighters have volunteered to take the trip. So many individuals and businesses are committing donations and equipment it's hard to keep up, according to Hille.

Hille is reaching out to fire services all over Southern California for spare equipment. After communicating with some Ukraine fire departments, needed equipment includes portable generators, jaws of life, urban search and rescue equipment, and used to free people trapped in collapsed buildings, Hille said.

He hopes to leave with the equipment and the first team of 10 firefighters as soon as possible.

In the Army Hille was a part of the NATO multi-national forces in Kosovo. He said he became friendly with, and admired, the Ukrainian military members he served beside.

Contact Us