The Oronoco Fire Department leads the collection of fire equipment for Ukrainians


ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – Fire and rescue equipment stored at the Oronoco Fire Department now has a new purpose.

“I’m like, well, we can do this. Why can’t we do this? I spoke to my boss, and he said ‘yes, we have material that we can send,’” said Johann Sonnenberg, training officer for the Oronoco fire department.

After seeing the idea online, Sonnenberg and his team collect old and used fire and rescue equipment to send overseas to help Ukrainian first responders.

Under National Fire Protection Association rules, firefighting equipment cannot be used in the United States once it has reached its 10-year lifespan. In other countries, this rule does not exist. So instead of leaving old equipment lying around or filling a landfill with it, local firefighters hope it can help Ukrainians.

Sonnenberg issued a call to action for other fire stations to do the same. Stations are invited to drop off donations Monday evenings from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Oronoco Fire Station. The last day to donate is April 11.

“The firefighters there are in a terrible situation. They are in a war zone,” Sonnenberg said. “They fight fires with bulletproof vests. I can’t imagine doing that. Any help we can give them is great. I know they will use it.

Support from across the state has arrived. Sonnenberg said he received support from southeast Minnesota in Inver Grove Heights to Stewart.

“I had someone respond right away and say, ‘Can I send this statewide?’ and I said sure,” Sonnenberg said. “I was just shocked. Just stunned. My phone rings, my mailbox fills up. It was great. I really appreciate the response from the firefighters.

The department is teaming up with Lindstrom-based Chaplain International Ministries to get the equipment overseas.

“We are a very small organization, but we do what we can,” said Chris Allen.

Mark and Chris Allen founded CIM. Although their primary focus is ministry and training first responders as chaplains, they have delivered several containers of firefighting equipment to Peru and Ukraine. Mark has spent 30 years working as a doctor and knows how essential fire equipment is.

“The need is there. The word needs to get out to the fire stations,” Chris said. “So they know there’s a place it can go and be used.”

But in the midst of war, this donation may be a little more difficult, if not impossible. In any case, the equipment will be used somewhere.

“It will be used somewhere, but if it will be used in Ukraine we will just have to wait and see,” she said.

All equipment donations must be free of rips, tears, holes or tears on the cuffs of pants or coats. The age of the equipment doesn’t matter, nor does the NFPA compliance, but the equipment must be serviceable.

Several law enforcement agencies in Iowa are carrying out similar initiatives. The Clear Lake Fire Department is also collecting equipment to donate to Ukraine.

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