Local Fire Department Robbed - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

11/20/02

Local Fire Department Robbed

This bin should be full of rescue equipment. This bin should be full of rescue equipment.

What will thieves do with thousands of dollars worth of stolen firefighting equipment? That's what people in Walthourville, Georgia, want to know after someone took the tools used to get into burning buildings or rescue someone from a wrecked car.

Firefighters are outraged. In their hands, this equipment could literally save lives. In the best case, another city will buy it, knowing it's stolen. In the worst, a crime spree could be on the way.

Captain Shawn Smith was glad to find the door on a recent call unlocked. After someone robbed the fire station, all he has to break in is an ax.

"Our main equipment is gone," he said. "Now citizens have to pay, and I just hope it doesn't cost someone their life."

Between Sunday and Tuesday, someone stole $70,000 in invasion equipment: Jaws of Life, saws and other tools used to save lives. Also glaring in this case is what wasn't stolen: TVs and computers. Firefighters figure either someone is planning a crime spree no deadbolt could stop, or they plan to sell it on the black market.

"You don't drive around with this stuff in your car trying to sell this at different pawn shops," said Assistant Chief Thomas Hines.

Firefighters aren't sure who's lower, those who'd steal the gear or firefighters who'd buy it hot.

"You'd have to justify the equipment you bought," said Hines. "They'd ask if you got a warranty and warranties don't come with stolen equipment."

On this last call, Smith and the others got to the patient safely. But with the theft, he's worried if someone on the next call will be so lucky.

The firefighters are putting money together to offer a reward for the stolen equipment. It was insured and will be replaced, but for now they're relying on neighboring departments who have similar equipment. Plus, they're hitting the internet to warn other departments that might see the stolen gear offered on the web.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call WFD at 368-6260 or Assistant Chief Thomas Hines at 657-6568.

Reported by: Dal Cannady, dcannady@wtoc.com

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