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Ukrainian firefighters on risky mission to save lives, homes


KOSTIANTYNIVKA, Ukraine — Thick grey smoke pours from the roof as the firefighters arrive at the brick house, one of several homes hit by Russian shelling in a residential neighborhood of Kostiantynivka.

The city in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk province has come under intense bombardment in recent days amid a Russian push to capture nearby Bakhmut, where Ukrainian forces have held on during a grinding battle that started last summer.

Ukrainian authorities say Russian forces are attacking Kostiantynivka with cluster bombs and missiles. Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of Donetsk province, said one person was killed and at least three civilians wounded after several rounds of Russian shelling on Saturday.

An attack on the city a day earlier injured eight people and destroyed or damaged more than a dozen houses. The barrages have overwhelmed local firefighters, who take great risks putting out fires in buildings and cars even as the shelling continues.

The air is heavy with smoke and the sharp smell of explosives as the firefighters unfold a hose. They smash the windows of the brick house and spray water from the outside.

There are no people inside, but a dog is trapped in a cage in the backyard. A firefighter opens the gate and the dog runs out amid the smoke and debris.

The chief of the unit calls on his team to stop what they’re doing.

“Attention everyone. Air raid!” he shouts.

The firefighters take cover behind the house. They sit quietly as explosions go off in the near distance. One lights a cigarette.

It’s unclear whether the blasts are a new wave of attacks or secondary explosions caused by fires in the area. Either way, the explosions are getting too close, and the leader of the team orders everyone back to the truck.

As they run down the dirt road, another loud explosion rocks the neighborhood, sending a cloud of smoke toward the sky not far from the house they just left.

Associated Press writer Karl Ritter in Kyiv contributed to this report.

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*This story has not been edited by The Infallible staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.