Kamloops RCMP seize stolen firefighting gear, make 1 arrest

Click to play video: 'Amid threats and abuse, B.C. fire chief urges compassion'
Amid threats and abuse, B.C. fire chief urges compassion
WATCH: In an impassioned video, Sean Coubrough of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District said that some men and women fighting the Bush Creek East fire have experienced threats and abuse from local residents. – Aug 23, 2023

RCMP in Kamloops, B.C., say they have arrested a youth suspect and recovered a variety of stolen firefighting equipment.

Mounties said they were called to a theft in progress in the 1400 block of Hugh Allan Drive around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, where about $10,000 worth of equipment was taken from two parked vehicles, including a medic kit and an automated external defibrillator (AED).

Click to play video: 'Firefighting gear being stolen in Shuswap area, B.C. Wildfire officials say'
Firefighting gear being stolen in Shuswap area, B.C. Wildfire officials say

Police said another batch of wildfire gear had been reported at the same location on Monday.

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“The items stolen were directly related to local wildfire response,” said Supt. Jeff Pelley, officer in charge of the Kamloops RCMP.

“It is extremely disheartening to see these crimes occurring and potentially hampering the efforts of those who are trying to protect life and property in extremely dangerous and volatile environments. We will be working proactively with our partners and the public to ensure that those found responsible for any thefts affecting the ability of firefighters on the frontlines are held to full account, with zero tolerance displayed for such senseless criminal acts.”

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Police said witnesses reported a black truck in relation to both thefts.

Later Tuesday morning, around 4:40 a.m., Mounties responded to another reported theft in progress in the 100 block of Vernon Avenue involving a truck with a matching description.

Officers located the truck, which itself had been reported stolen, and arrested a youth “known to police.” Police also seized a pellet rifle, the stolen medic bag and AED and a bag of gear that was reported stolen on Monday.

Two other male suspects fled on foot before police arrived.

Click to play video: 'Emergency management minister repeats call to heed evacuation orders'
Emergency management minister repeats call to heed evacuation orders

The arrest comes amid a number of reports of wildfire-fighting gear being stolen, moved or appropriated for unsanctioned firefighting in the region.

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In the nearby North Shuswap, where some of the gear has been reportedly taken or moved, the Bush Creek East wildfire has forced hundreds of people from homes around the Shuswap and Little Shuswap lakes.

Some residents have defied evacuation orders and stayed behind to try and put out spot fires or protect homes, setting off tensions with BC Wildfire Service, regional district and provincial emergency officials.

At a briefing Wednesday, Emergency Management and Climate Readiness Minister Bowinn Ma again urged people to leave the evacuation zone, and warned that individual efforts to fight the fires could compromise the wildfire service’s larger strategy.

“When unauthorized people are in evacuation areas it escalates the dangers for everyone. It also limits the type of wildfire fighting tactics that the BC Wildfire Service can deploy and it redirects critical resources away from the wildfire fight itself into searching for moved equipment, redoing work that’s already been done to set up structural protection, or just trying to manage an unpredictable situation made even more unpredictable by well-meaning but uncoordinated firefighting efforts,” Ma said.

“We have to be working on this together, though; people can’t be doing their own thing. We can’t have equipment that’s been staged for firefighters being moved so it’s not there when it’s needed. That puts the whole unified strategy at risk.”

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