Fire Stations Hit by Rash of Burglaries
Detective Stan Weber had long marveled at how firefighters could leave their stations unlocked and their garage doors wide open without being burglarized while on a call.
“I was always amazed seeing fire stations open and no one bothers (to break in),” said the detective, who has been with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department for 18 years.
Those days, apparently, are over.
For several months, county deputies and fire officials have been mystified by a rash of petty burglaries at stations in Santa Paula, Moorpark, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks and Newbury Park. All occurred while firefighters were out on calls, several of them false alarms and at least two involving bogus reports of motorcycle accidents.
At least nine stations--and probably more--have been hit, Weber said, some more than once.
Ventura County Assistant Fire Chief Dave Festerling said the total from all the thefts is not large--in excess of $1,000--and that the bulk were from firefighters’ petty cash for groceries.
But officials are concerned, so much so that security measures have been stiffened, from assuring that stations are locked up when their crews leave to changing the push-button access codes that some stations use to unlock doors, Weber said.
Fire Station 34 at 555 Avenida de los Arboles in Thousand Oaks was hit on May 19, after firefighters received a call that a motorcyclist was injured, the detective said.
He said the 911 call came at about 12:40 a.m. and firefighters returned to the station 20 minutes later, at 1 a.m., only to find that someone had purloined their cable TV box and about $140 in cash.
Firefighters never found the reported accident.
On March 10, a similar burglary occurred at Fire Station 31 in Thousand Oaks after a false 911 report of a motorcycle accident was called in, Weber said.
“I can’t ever remember a fire station being broken into,” Weber said. “I always thought fire stations were pretty safe. People respect them.”