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String of equipment thefts hinders firefighters in the Central Kootenay

Thursday, July 22nd 2021, 9:29 am - Anyone with information on the thefts is asked to contact Castlegar RCMP's non emergency line at 250-365-7721.

Authorities say important equipment was stolen twice in the span of a week, hampering firefighting efforts in the Central Kootenay region of British Columbia.

The first theft on July 11 saw approximately $2,000 worth of hoses and sprinklers stolen from the site of the Merry Creek wildfire southwest of Castlegar, B.C.

Nearly $40,000 worth of equipment was stolen in the second incident on July 16, when firefighters discovered pumps, generators, and chainsaws missing from a trailer outside Beasley Fire Hall near Nelson, B.C.

The Michaud Creek wildfire near the community of Edgewood in the Central Kootenay Regional District. Firefighters in the region have been hamstrung by a string of equipment thefts. (Twitter/B.C. Wildfire Service) The Michaud Creek wildfire near the community of Edgewood in the Central Kootenay Regional District. Firefighters in the region have been hamstrung by a string of equipment thefts. (Twitter/B.C. Wildfire Service)

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Dan Elliott, the communications co-ordinator for the Regional District of Central Kootenay, said the stolen equipment was "imperative" for the firefighting effort in remote areas.

"Considering the climate and the situation across the province with all the wildfires going on, it's not like you can easily come by this equipment, or just jump on Amazon and go and purchase it," he said.

"This is specific, important equipment that our firefighters need in order to help [...] keep these communities safe. So, it's very disappointing and disheartening to learn of these thefts."

CBC: This equipment trailer outside Beasley Fire Hall was discovered with its lock broken on July 16. (Dan Caverly) This equipment trailer outside Beasley Fire Hall was discovered with its lock broken on July 16. (Dan Caverly via CBC)

Multiple fires in the region have a number of communities on evacuation alert, and authorities have already issued evacuation orders for the communities of Edgewood and Fauquier.

Elliott says a "good portion" of the crews currently battling fires in the district are volunteers, and they were shocked to learn of the thefts.

"That's what's the most disappointing thing about this. If you live in this community, you understand the scenario and the situation that's going on with these wildfires," he said. "You're preventing our crews and our firefighters from going out and protecting your communities."

These water pumps are part of nearly $40,000 worth of vital firefighting equipment that was stolen from the trailer. (Regional District of Central Kootenay) These water pumps are part of nearly $40,000 worth of vital firefighting equipment that was stolen from the trailer. (Regional District of Central Kootenay)

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While the first theft was discovered by crews doing a perimeter check, the second was discovered after firefighters arrived at Beasley Fire Hall to pick up equipment and found the lock on the trailer had been smashed.

Elliott says he has no idea what the thieves plan to do with the items they stole, and says that the province's recently-declared state of emergency won't immediately help with the equipment situation.

Anyone with information on the thefts is asked to contact Castlegar RCMP's non emergency line at 250-365-7721.

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This article was originally published for CBC News. Contains files from Karen Pauls.

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