Having property stolen is infuriating and wrong, no matter what the circumstances, but some cases hit even harder when the victims are generally considered selfless local heroes.
One of the more recent incidents took place on Wednesday, when a Graham Fire & Rescue team was parked at a Safeway supermarket. They had recently completed a safety training exercise and were getting some food for dinner when some lowlife spotted the easy target and stole a bag that held vital gear for saving trapped firefighters.
A good Samaritan spotted the theft in progress and ran into the store to alert the firemen, but they were too late. By the time they got outside, the culprit was already gone.
The group estimates that the bag contained $8,000 worth of equipment. Though they were able to replace it with a similar bag from another rig, they no longer have a backup and don’t know when they’ll be able to get another one.
It’s a tough situation, as firefighters can’t lock anything up, because it would impede response time, and sometimes the difference between life and death is in precious seconds.
“We train to protect our citizens,” Matthew Black, Battalion Chief in training, told KOMO. “But we also train to protect our own and there’s nothing more frustrating than losing the life-saving equipment to protect our own, because if we’re not safe, we can’t provide service to you.”
Graham Fire & Rescue posted about the theft on Facebook to alert citizens and thank the people who tried to warn them.
“Firefighting Gear STOLEN,” the post began. “While our firefighters were shopping for dinner at the Safeway in #Graham yesterday, someone decided to help themselves to a self guided tour of our fire engine.
“After rifling through a few compartments, they stole an essential piece of equipment that is used to rescue trapped firefighters, our Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) bag (seen in the picture). Thank you to the citizens who spotted this incident and went inside to alert our members.”
When someone in the comments asked whether the compartments had been locked, the department took the opportunity to explain why locks are not an option.
“No, we do not have locks on our compartments,” they responded. “Our engines are set up to be response ready, and having locked compartments would add more time to our response when we are trying to mitigate an emergency.”
The only real recourse they have at the moment is to leave a firefighter with the fire truck at all times, but that poses its own set of issues.
As a result of the increase in thefts from fire departments, a new bill has been introduced in the state legislature that would enforce stricter penalties on such thieves. The bill was introduced by State Rep. Jesse Young. Though the bill has stalled, he plans to reintroduce it when possible.
“We’re seeing a trend here that’s very concerning where the rights of the criminals are considered more prevalent than the rights of the people who are hurt by this,” Young stated.