For the third time in just more than a year, thieves broke into Fire Station 82 off of Powell Road in Hoquiam, this time damaging the building and taking so much equipment that Grays Harbor Fire District 16 couldn’t use the station for a full day.
‘The fire department, all we do is help. That is our main focus,” Chief Jodi Hartle said. “We’re there for people to help them in their worst time. We don’t have any ulterior motive, we’re just there to help our community. So for someone to do this to us, for the third time in a year, it’s terrible. We feel violated.”
Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the station at about 4:20 p.m. Monday when a volunteer firefighter discovered the break-in. The burglars apparently drove a vehicle into the metal garage door and took firefighting tools including: flashlights, bolt cutters, helmets, boots, pants, gloves and several sets of breathing equipment.
“They’re not going to get anywhere near the value of the masks, but they took the whole unit,” Chief Criminal Deputy Steve Shumate said of the breathing equipment. They usually cost about $2,500 each to replace.
Hartle said a repair company worked on the garage door and had it working again Tuesday night. The fire engine at the station is now able to respond to calls, but the station is still limited in its response because of the stolen gear.
“We’re still missing vital equipment and gear for our firefighters, we’re just having to make due with what we have,” Harle said Wednesday.
Other engines from the district’s main station will be able to respond with a full set of equipment. The volunteers will be impacted by the theft.
“They took a set of turnout gear for one of our volunteers, he’s actually one of our officers. And with our limited budget, we don’t have another set. What that means for us is we currently have one less volunteer that could help,” Hartle said.
In previous incidents, the suspects were arrested because of help from citizens, Shumate said. It’s unlikely the same people struck again “because they’re in prison,” he added.
“Whoever is doing this knows exactly what they want. They’re familiar, they knew exactly where this stuff is, which is very interesting,” Hartle said. “Hopefully we can all step up and figure out how to get this stuff back.”
In Oct. 2012, the burglars absconded with seven oxygen tanks and breathing masks, a two-way Motorola radio, a full set of turnout gear and a full five-gallon gas can. In July, Hartle said, someone came in a side door and made off with chainsaws. Firefighting equipment and radios have been taken off parked fire trucks and from another fire station back in August, despite little resale value.
“They still get yo-yos that will give them something for it, and unfortunately that’s all these guys are looking for,” Shumate said. “If they can get a buck, they’ll steal it.”
About a month ago, a similar attempt was made to break into Washington Tractor in Central Park. Suspects in that case drove a stolen van into the building, then apparently fled when the alarm went off.
“It looks like they backed into (the building), were able to make entry into the structure and took what they could get. It’s quite possible it was the same individuals,” Shumate said.
There was no alarm on the fire station, Hartle said.
“We’re actually working on that,” she said, along with surveillance and better lighting around the isolated station. The location is important for response from the district, but isn’t near any homes or businesses that might have heard an alarm.
Despite the setback, coming in her first month as chief, Hartle is optimistic the community will come together as it always has.
“We’ll overcome it. We’re a great community, we’re a strong community. You can’t knock us down,” she said.
Anyone with information on the most recent burglary is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 360-249-3711 or the dispatch center at 360-532-8765.