MERIDEN, Conn. — Meriden firefighter Konstantin Tartakovsky has collected hundreds of pairs of pants, boots, coats, helmets, and more for fellow firefighters in Ukraine.
Dozens of departments across the state have donated equipment to the fire lieutenant.
Tartakovsky said he got the idea after seeing a similar initiative in Canada. Once he found out that would be expensive to be a part of, he found a company in New Jersey that will ship it. He plans to deliver it next week.
"Today I broke one hundred sets of pants and coats for firefighting equipment," Tartakovsky said Monday. "I can pretty much almost outfit an entire fire department minus the truck."
His garage is full of more than one hundred coats, more than one hundred pants, nearly 30 helmets, 30 pairs of gloves, 30 pairs of boots, eleven rescue harnesses, two jaws of life, ten hazmat suits, and more.
The equipment comes from departments across the state including South Windsor, Torrington, North Windham, and Branford.
"I know the refugees are getting help. I know the military is getting help. But on the fire service side, they are getting some help but I feel like in the war, the firefighters almost kind of got sidetracked and put to the side," Tartakovsky said.
It's a personal initiative for him. He was born in Ukraine and spent the first 11 years of his life there before moving to the United States. He still has family over there who has to deal with the impacts of war daily.
"It pains me to see what’s happening there. Ukraine was a country that was once on the up and up," he said.
The equipment is more than ten years old, meaning it's outdated by United States standards but he says they are still usable, especially in war.
He originally set out to collect a couple of dozen sets of coats and pants.
"It makes me feel good," Tartakovsky said. "Beyond the Connecticut community, they call the fire department a big brotherhood. And it actually shows. I have people I’ve never met before reaching out to me. It warms my heart to see everybody come together, especially in a small state like this."
Some of the equipment could take a month to get to Ukraine. He hopes to find a way to help get it all from his home to New Jersey since it won't fit in his truck anymore.
Tartakovsky, who has been with Meriden Fire for 11 years, says he will collect more if there's a need for it.
"I hope that one extra firefighter’s protected. That he’s able to do his job," he said.
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