As firefighters rested in their Merced hotel rooms after 24-hour shifts fighting the fast-moving Detwiler Fire, someone was stealing their equipment, Merced police confirmed.
Police took five reports on Monday of equipment stolen from fire trucks used in the fight against the blaze that broke out in Mariposa County, Capt. Bimley West said. And, another engine was burglarized near Santa Nella, according to the Merced County Sheriff’s Office.
Nearly 5,000 firefighters from 114 crews from around the state are headquartered in Merced for the fire that’s reached 80,000 acres, according to the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
It’s extremely disappointing that our fellow firefighters come to this area to assist us, and they had to experience this in our community.
CalFire Battalion Chief Jeremy Rahn
West said two trucks were parked at Best Western Inn on Motel Drive and three were at the Holiday Inn Express on Parsons Avenue. Two radios, two firefighting helmets and an Apple iPhone were reported stolen.
“These are items that the firefighters use while on duty trying to protect lives as well as protect properties,” West said. “It’s a shame that (to) these thieves there’s nothing sacred to them.”
More than 400 fire engines and water tenders are being used to fight flames, not to mention dozens of helicopters and air tankers, according to CalFire.
An engine parked overnight on Sunday at Quality Inn in Santa Nella was pried open, according to deputies. The thieves took hand-held radios, navy blue class B uniforms with names and patches on them, a weather meter and a spare key to the engine. They also took boots, pants and helmets marked with “RSF,” for Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego County.
CalFire Battalion Chief Jeremy Rahn said the engines that have been burglarized belong to crews from out of the area, noting the firefighters have returned from “tirelessly” trying to protect homes and businesses near the fire.
“It’s extremely disappointing that our fellow firefighters come to this area to assist us and they had to experience this in our community,” he said.
West said detectives are looking into the thefts in hopes to recover the equipment.