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Inmate Firefighter Accused Of Stealing Cal Fire Engine And Crashing It Into Business

SHINGLE SPRINGS (CBS13) – It's surveillance video you'll have to see to believe.

Security cameras Sunday night captured a Cal Fire engine plowing through the property of a truck rack business in Shingle Springs.

"When I got the notification of it early this morning, I couldn't believe the fact that somebody had stolen a Cal Fire Truck and had actually driven it through my property," said Van Thompson, owner of the company.

Cal Fire told CBS13 that as crews responded to a grass fire sparked by illegal fireworks, an inmate firefighter stole the engine and took it for a spin. The agency issued this statement in regard to the incident:

"During a vegetation fire last night in Shingle Springs, an incident occurred within the Cal Fire Amador-El Dorado Unit involving an incarcerated firefighter assigned to Growlersburg Camp who stole a Cal Fire engine. During the incident, significant damage was done to the engine, as well as public and private property. The California Highway Patrol, Cal Fire, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), Sierra Conservation Center, and the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office responded and the inmate was taken into custody and hospitalized for treatment of his injuries. No firefighters or civilians were injured during the incident. Cal Fire is working with CDCR and local law enforcement to investigate. The inmate is a 31-year-old admitted from Orange County in 2015. He is in good condition and expected to recover. His name is being withheld pending the ongoing investigation."

Van's son Travis said it didn't look like it went according to plan.

"And so as he comes off this, launches himself on two different racks and starts dragging them the parking lot through here until the fence gets so tight; it seizes him for a second and then guns it again!" Travis Thompson, Assistant Vice President of Rack-It Truck Racks, said.

The Thompsons said their business wasn't the only one that was hit. They told us that the truck drove around the area, hit another business, finally coming to a rest at a nearby irrigation ditch.

"But to have someone straight-up steal a firetruck and going on a rampage is, it's out of a movie!" Travis Thompson said.

It was a wild ride that did big damage.

More than 250 feet of fence was ripped out at their business along with busted-up trucks racks.

"We have tons of racks out here that got hit, upwards of 50 of the product. A lot of these customers have been waiting eight weeks due to the steel shortages and increasing in steel price," Travis said.

He added that some are total losses while some could be repaired with lots of labor.

And one of Thompson's vital company trucks is now out of commission.

"We're so busy I need every single truck right now," Van Thompson said.

"To be down one, that's a big hit to our business. That's 20 percent less rack we can take," Travis added.

"There will be a lot of people asking questions tomorrow morning when they show up, 'What the heck happened here?'" Van Thompson said.

Cal Fire told CBS13 that the crashed engine is a total loss and replacing it will cost around $280,000.


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