Thieves steal crucial equipment from volunteer firefighters

ABERDEEN, Wash. -- They rush to our aid when there's an emergency, but now a group of volunteer firefighters from Grays Harbor County are the ones asking for help after thieves broke into their fire house and stole equipment.

Crucial tools, including a chain saw and a rescue saw, were stolen early this week. In all, detectives say the thieves got away with more than $2,000 worth of gear owned by the Ocosta Fire Department.

"I was pretty upset," said Chief Mike Mahnke. "It's a small community and we haven't had many problems before, so it was kind of an eye-opener."

What's even more alarming is that the department no longer has what it needs to respond to a fire, and crews are now relying on help from other departments.

"Right now we don't have any way to ventilate a house if we have a structure fire," Mahnke said.

Ocosta is a volunteer fire department that depends on grant money to operate, so replacing what's been stolen won't be easy.

One of the stolen chain saws was purchased just last week, and the crew didn't even have a chance to use it during a call.

Also missing is a much-needed portable radio.

"We have all the fire bands and all police bands on it, so it's just like a scanner. So chances of them talking on it is none, but they can hear what's going on," Mahnke said.

A firefighter noticed the theft during a routine rig check on Monday, but because the firehouse isn't staffed 24 hours per day, it's unclear exactly when the break-in happened.

"It would be nice to catch them because it's a safety issue for us," Mahnke said.

The fire chief said he hopes to get some temporary equipment by Wednesday, but it could take months to replace all of the stolen items.