Thieves burglarize rural volunteer fire department

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Reported by: Lynn Casey
Updated: 1/13 10:17 pm Published: 1/13 10:12 pm

As wildfires burn in other parts of the state we’re reminded how important the contributions of volunteer firefighters are. But volunteers in Sequoyah County will have a hard time doing parts of their job now thanks to burglars.

“This is a huge blow to us because of our limited funding,” said Jackie Fritts. She’s a volunteer paramedic and firefighter at the West Tenkiller Station.

The station covers a territory that spans three counties. They’re strictly funded by a small sales tax and membership fees.

This weekend burglars stole $4,500 worth of rescue equipment. This includes a chainsaw, two sawzalls, two other saws used to cut through metal roofs and tools to help pry open doors.

“It’s going to take us some time to replace it. Because we don’t have the funding for us to just go out and buy new equipment,” said Assistant Fire Chief Keith Rowe.

Assistant Chief Rowe says the thieves didn’t just steal from the department; they stole from the entire community since they ultimately helped pay for the equipment. And community members will be the ones to suffer most if crews find themselves without the tools they need to save someone’s life.

“It’s heartbreaking and devastating to think that the people that you put your trust in would come in and steal important, vital equipment,” said volunteer firefighter Clifford Fritts.

“As with anything that’s stolen from you, it hurts. But it hurts even more because we know that at any time now a call could come in and not having those tools could be difference between somebody’s life and death,” said Jackie Fritts.

The department hopes insurance will cover the loss. But it would take some time to get the money. Crews just hope nobody’s life will depend on that equipment before they get it back.

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