The New Berlin Volunteer Fire Department prides itself on helping its neighbors.
But recently, someone helped themselves to items inside the department’s station 2 located in Olmos, including a Jaws of Life set of tools, New Berlin Fire Chief Kurt Strey said.
“It’s disheartening, angering, frustrating,” he said. “It just burns me up. Our volunteers are already stretched and are taking on various projects. There’s always something to do. Then when something like this happens, it’s like a kick in the shin when we’re already working hard to keep things moving.”
The burglary was discovered the week following the winter storm, Strey said.
Firefighters were at the station on Tuesday, Feb. 22 for their weekly meeting and when they returned on that following Thursday in response to an emergency call, they found several items missing. A deeper look around the fire engine and station revealed the extent of the burglary, Strey said.
“A lot of the stuff they took is what I would call minor in the grand scheme, but taking the Jaws of Life really tripped my trigger,” he said. “They’re not easily replaced. That set of tools, we bought just about six or eight months ago. Granted, they were used, but we got a good price for them, and you can’t find those things hardly for sale.”
Included in the list of stolen items were “Holmatro jaws of life power unit, one Holmatro jaws of life spreader, one Holmatro jaws of life cutter, one Holmatro ‘jaws of life’ ram, one Holmatro ‘jaws of life’ cutter, one Holmatro core hose (which connects the power unit to the various previously mentioned tools), one Kenwood VHF radio, one Astron 50 amp power supply (used to allow Kenwood radio to be powered as a base station), one wheeled 12-volt battery charger, two 45-quart Yeti ice chests (used to hold drinks to hydrate our firefighters when fighting fires), two Scott self-contained breathing apparatus masks, two Elkhardt hydrant wrenches, two Kochek spanner wrenches, one McCleod rake, one hay rake, miscellaneous mechanics tools and two red fire axes,” Strey wrote in the post.
The chief is almost certain if the burglars had easier access to the full self-contained breathing apparatus gear, they would have made off with more than just the masks.
The department is equipped with another jaws of life set on the engine at station 1, however, response times may increase due to lack of equipment and location of a call, Strey said.
“While we can still respond with that, it will take a little bit longer to get to the opposite side of our 94 square miles,” he said. “We do have the ability to continue to operate, it’s just that in some cases, it’s going to be a little bit longer of a response time to get that proper equipment there. In some cases, we may have to call neighboring departments to help get those tools there quicker.”
Replacing the equipment is costly, and will force the department to put other projects on the back burner as fundraising efforts last year were hampered and may be slowed this year, Strey said.
“This is really making us come back and put the brakes on some other things we were doing for improvements,” he said. “We’re going to have to hold off until we see where we sit with this. It is a complicated puzzle to put this together.”
Much like the department’s motto of “neighbors helping neighbors since 1972,” Strey is hopeful the community will lend a hand.
“Our community has been very good to us for a long time and we hope it stays that way,” he said. “I think our supporters, our community members will help us out and get through it. We’ll persevere. All the way around, it’s going to hurt us, but at the same time, we’re going to get through it and we’re going to keep going.”
The New Berlin Volunteer Fire Department has a PayPal account at paypal.me/nbvfd for anyone who would like to make a donation.
Strey reported the burglary to the Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Office, who is investigating the burglary.
“We do wish to ask your assistance, from our supporting and loving community that we enjoy volunteering for, to please stay observant and report any suspicious activity not just at our fire stations, but also your neighbors,” he said.
Anyone with information is asked to contract the Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Office at 830-379-1224 or the alternate phone number while dispatchers transition to a new building, 210-961-4255. Leave an anonymous tip through Guadalupe County Crime Stoppers at 877-430-TIPS (8477), www.gccsTIPS.com or the P3 app.