Thieves Target Oklahoma Volunteer Fire Departments
WAGONER COUNTY, Oklahoma - Thieves took three fire trucks from volunteer fire departments in just three weeks, and investigators tell us they believe the cases are connected.
Two Red Bird trucks were found in Muskogee and Okmulgee counties, and a Liberty Fire truck was found in Wagoner County.
Liberty Fire Chief Lee Johnson says the thieves used a piece of rebar to pry open the bay door and get inside. He says they ransacked a fire engine and then stole the truck.
Wagoner County deputies found the stolen Liberty fire truck hours after someone stole it from the station.
Wagoner County Sheriff Chris Elliott tells me their investigation into two stolen trucks from the Red Bird Fire Department led them to finding this truck.
"When this information came to light, we acted on it very quickly. And yes, we just barely missed them because that truck was still running when we found the truck," said Sheriff Chris Elliott.
Sheriff Elliott says investigators in Muskogee County, Okmulgee County and Wagoner County are working together to solve the thefts.
He believes this is a burglary ring.
“We do believe they are connected. They are the same MO," he said.
"It's the same group of people that we are talking to right now that have some information about it."
Liberty Fire Chief Lee Johnson says losing that truck would have cost them around $45,000 because of all of the equipment on it.
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He says that's more than half their budget.
"They have no regard to the fact that we can use that to protect people's life," Johnson said.
"We also do a lot of our medical response with it."
Sheriff Elliott says it's frustrating to see this happen to people who work for free and volunteer their time to the community.
"To have somebody come in and break into their fire house and steal this equipment that they've worked so very hard to pay for and tax payers have paid for, I take it personal," said Wagoner County Sheriff Chris Elliott.