Anonymous tip leads to recovery of stolen firefighting equipment

An anonymous tip led to the arrest of a man who had equipment stolen from a rural fire station last November.

Craig R. Ponischil, 26, of Copalis Beach, was sentenced Monday in Grays Harbor Superior Court to three months in jail for possession of stolen property, but a total of one year withe the addition of a separate residential burglary. He broke into his neighbor’s house and stole pills and other items, according to court documents.

The equipment found at Ponischil’s home came from Grays Harbor Fire District 16 Station 82 off Powell Road in Hoquiam. A car was driven into the garage door, bending it open just enough to enter the building but trapping emergency vehicles inside for more than a day.

Firefighting tools were taken, including flashlights, bolt cutters, helmets, boots, pants, gloves and several sets of breathing equipment.

An anonymous tip was called in to the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office that Ponischil had been “bragging” about committing the burglary and had the items in his possession.

Deputies searching Ponischil’s home found two sets of breathing apparatus, two flashlights, a lieutenant’s fire helmet, three small red nylon bags and a large red duffle bag with a firefighter insignia.

Ponischil allegedly told deputies he had received the items from another man who asked to store them there. He said he later realized the items were stolen after hearing of the break-in.

“He stated that he did not report that he had these items because, ‘I am not a rat,’ ” court documents stated.

Ponischil said he traded two oxygen masks for drugs, and later retrieved them and turned them over to deputies.

The value of the gear was in the thousands of dollars, and had limited the district’s ability to respond from that station.


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