The Cariboo Regional District is undertaking a security and safety review of its volunteer fire halls following the recent thefts of two medical trucks in the Cariboo.
CAO John MacLean said at a board meeting Wednesday that the review will look at “any opportunity to make the facilites safe and secure” and protect their assets.
The move comes after thieves broke into the Interlakes Volunteer Fire Department Hall 3 – in Bridge Lake on Highway 24 by Lee Road – overnight on Friday, April 8. They stole a new white F150 equipped with tools, medical supplies and emergency lights, valued at about $80,000.
The vehicle was recovered Sunday morning but without the tools and medical equipment, which included items such as a spineboard and “clamshell” and basket stretchers.
“Sadly it was stripped of a lot of the equipment,” 100 Mile RCMP Sgt. Brad McKinnon said. “They basically picked all the goodies out of it. There were a lot of tools and equipment in the vehicle that can be used for various applications. We think that was the target.”
McKinnon said the truck is undergoing a forensic audit and police are “zooming in” on a suspect.
The theft came less than a week after a brand new emergency response truck, along with life-saving hydraulic tools used at accident scenes, was stolen April 3 from the Central Cariboo Search and Rescue hall in Williams Lake.
That truck was recovered by the Alexis Creek RCMP after a tip from the public but some of the specialized tools are still missing, including a Holmatro Combi tool, hydrolic ram, and hoses and pumps.
Todd Schley, chief of the Interlakes Volunteer Fire Department, said “it hurts” when people break into halls to steal their assets.
CRD Chair Margo Wagner agreed, adding it’s also “horrifically expensive” to replace specialized equipment.
The Cariboo Regional District oversees both the CCSAR and 14 volunteer fire halls in the region.
“To me, to steal a truck from a fire hall is as low as you can get,” she told the Free Press.
Wagner raised the issue of increased security at the board meeting Wednesday, saying she hopes the review can be done by the next board meeting on April 29.
The board had previously discussed the idea of security cameras at fire halls, she said, but didn’t pursue it because of the expense and concerns about Freedom of Information and right to privacy.
“We didn’t think it was necessary. Sadly, though, it might be,” she said. “It’s really sad in today’s world that we have to have this stringent security of fire halls but as soon as you get into this specialized equipment, it gets so expensive because there’s a limited supply.”
Al Richmond, Director for 108 Mile Ranch-Lac La Hache, said people visiting local fire halls should expect “we have to protect it with cameras even if it is inside the building.”
He asked whether the fire chiefs would be allowed to put in alarm systems in the meantime.
“The rescue vehicles and first responder vehicles are always at risk,” he said. “Can we move fast to put in alarms even if there’s no cameras?”
However, MacLean said the review will look at the full aspects of security with a view to ensuring a “common thread” at all the halls.
He noted there may be also some budget implications.
“We’re already working at it,” he said. “We’re just going to get the job done.”