Turlock didn’t exactly roll out the welcome wagon for a trio of volunteers who stopped in town to eat while traveling to the Camp Fire site in Butte County. In fact, it was more like Turlock stole the wagon, or rather the contents in it.
Three volunteers with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Mountaineering Team had been requested at the Camp Fire in Butte County to assist with the search for remains of those still listed as missing.
The three stopped in Turlock around 6 p.m. Nov. 23 to get dinner at an eatery in the 2900 block of Countryside Drive. They were in the restaurant for about 30 minutes and when they came out to their SUV they found it had been burglarized.
A side window and the back window had been broken and most of their equipment had been stolen. The equipment included search and rescue bags, clothing, a portable fire radio and a GPS device, said Turlock Police spokesman Sgt. Russ Holeman.
The total value of the stolen items was approximately $7,000.
There were no witnesses and no known surveillance cameras in the area, Holeman said.
“The volunteers would be unable to perform their duties at the Camp Fire without this essential gear, so they were forced to return home to Fresno,” the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office stated on their Facebook page. “These volunteers are certified work with the Sheriff’s Office, however, they are not county employees, so they pay out of their own pockets for clothing and supplies. Thus, this theft was a huge financial loss to these three folks. Not only are they now not equipped to help at the Camp Fire, they do not have the necessary gear to help our local community should an emergency arise.”
The theft of this much needed equipment moved one man to make a sizeable donation to the nonprofit organization. David McDonald, the former chief executive officer for Pelco, donated $7,000 so that the trio could replace their stolen equipment and continue with their recovery efforts.
The investigation into the theft remains open. Anyone with information about the theft or the stolen equipment is encouraged to contact the Turlock Police Department at 668-5550.