Only a few months after Central Crossing Fire Protection District's Fire Station #7 opened, it was robbed, forcing the facility to shut down.
On the morning of Sept. 2, CCFD fire personnel went to the fire station to do maintenance work and discovered nearly $30,000 worth of equipment had been stolen. The fire station is located in the Piny Creek Wilderness area.
"The station is an unmanned volunteer station," said CCFD Fire Chief Rusty Rickard. "We hadn't been at the station for about a week, because we hadn't received any fire or rescue calls in that area. It happened sometime during the week before."
Rickard said the whole idea of having a fire station in that area was to help lower insurance premiums for citizens and to help decrease response time for firefighters.
"Having the station there helped take care of problems quicker," said Rickard. "This theft is putting people's property and lives at increased danger."
According to Rickard, most of the items the thieves took were used only for firefighting. Some of the items taken included communication equipment, nozzles, flash lights, fans to blow smoke out of homes, attic ladders, air tanks and firefighting gear.
"Most of the stolen items carry tags or engravings of the initials CCFD and inventory numbers," said Rickard. "It's not easy to take these things to pawn shops to sell."
Fortunately, Rickard said, one of the fire trucks used at Station #7 for brush fires didn't have much equipment on it. The fire district planned to put that truck back in service last night.
Although Rickard has filed a claim with the department's insurance company, he said it could take time for processing.
"We are really at the mercy of our insurance company right now," Rickard said.
The Barry County Sheriff's Department has sent alerts to several surrounding counties to help get information out in case someone tries to sell the equipment to other fire departments.
"All fire departments are very upstanding in what they do," said Barry County Sheriff Mick Epperly. "No fire department will take free equipment without asking questions."
According to Epperly, the suspect or suspects used a pry bar to force entry into the building.
"It's sad that someone would steal from a fire department or any emergency personnel like this," said Epperly. "We sincerely hope to catch whoever did this and see that justice is served."
In addition, Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for the burglary.
Authorities are also turning to area communities "to get the word out" in hope of locating the equipment.
"Someone knows something," said Epperly.
Anyone who may have information is encouraged to contact the Barry County Sheriff's Department at 417-847-3121 or Crime Stoppers at 1-888-635-TIPS (8477). Tipsters can remain anonymous.