A California fire station was burglarized while firefighters were battling a raging wildfire on Sunday, a fire district spokesman said.
The Morgan Fire broke out amongst acres of dry brush and near triple-digit temperatures Sunday afternoon near Mount Diablo State Park. Within hours, it would grow to spread across 800 acres of rugged terrain and force evacuations for the residents of 75 houses nearby that it threatened to destroy.
Firefighters returned to Fire Station No. 7 in Walnut Creek that evening after battling the wildfire and noticed that some items had been moved around, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District spokesman Steve Aubert said.
“Once you go out there and you protect other people's property and come back and find your own was broken into, it's kind of hard to take," said firefighter JuDon Cherry.
A sweep of the station revealed that someone had taken two firefighters' weddings rings and money, as well as a captain's iPad, he said.
“Once I got looked around, something didn't look right, and I looked for my iPad it was missing, my bag had been rummaged through, they took my watch and my ring,” said Cherry. “My wedding ring was taken, and so was another firefighter’s, his wedding ring was taken too.”
Aubert said there was also a burglary attempt at Fire Station No. 3 in Walnut Creek at about 2:30 a.m. Monday while firefighters were asleep.
The perpetrator tried to break in through a back window screen at the station but firefighters woke up, prompting the would-be burglar to flee, he said.
“Actually the crew was at the station in bed, the captain was actually asleep in bed when he heard someone actually trying to pull off the screen, just 2 feet away from him,” said Aubert.
Aubert said he did not know if the two incidents are related.
“We're going to be evaluating the security at each of the stations to provide a better level of security for the department's resources and personnel,” Aubert said.
Fire department officials said its newer stations already have security measures in place to discourage thieves and they're looking at plans to retrofit older stations, which are vulnerable.