CLARKESVILLE - When you dial 9-1-1 for the fire department in an emergency, you want that department to have the tools it needs to provide assistance.
Over the weekend, thieves cleaned out trucks at one Habersham County fire station.
Habersham County Fire Chief Jeff Cain said when volunteers arrived for their weekly training at Habersham County Station 15 (Macedonia) Monday night, they discovered the equipment on their trucks had been stolen.
"The bay door going into the dayroom was open and the building was cold, and they thought that kind of strange because they usually keep that closed off," Cain said.
Upon inspection, they could tell that tampering had occurred.
"The more they got into it, the more they realized somebody had broken in," Cain said.
Cain said thieves "basically took everything that wasn't nailed down, from generator, Skil saws, chainsaws to ladders, Haligan tools, crowbars, sledgehammers, to [medical] jump bags, AED, suction kit. I mean, what are you going to do with a suction kit?"
Other items taken included fire blankets, gas cans, duct tape, flashlights - "that's just all they could remember off the top of their heads," Cain said. "They're going back up today to take our check-off list and compare it to it."
Habersham County has a combination paid/volunteer fire department.
Asked what the thefts do to Station 15's capabilities, Cain said, "It hurts them for a little bit. We've got a spare truck to put in its place, so we've got equipment for now - but that leaves us without a spare if we have one go down."
Cain said it's not going to hinder the response of Station 15.
"That area's not going to be lacking because of it," he said.
Cain said the county has insurance through the state association of county governments, but noted the value of the equipment stolen will be close to the deductible.
"The problem with it is they're not just stealing from us, they're stealing from everybody," Cain said. "This is county people's money. It's their equipment - it may be staged at the firehouse, but it's the public's equipment. They're stealing from everybody."
Cain asked what would have happened had volunteers shown up to respond to a fire, car wreck or medical call, not realizing the equipment was missing.
"It's a sad day, it really is," Cain said. "It's just like the chainsaw. They took the chainsaw out of the box, but they left the box, so if you're just glancing at your truck for a chainsaw, you see the box and say, 'Ok, it's there' and go on, then you get where you're going and there's no chainsaw in the box."
Volunteers check the equipment on each of the trucks at their assigned station weekly, and paid personnel check the equipment on another day during the week.
"We try to interspace them as much as possible to keep an eye on stuff," Cain said.
Cain said firefighters, both paid and volunteer, take their duties very seriously and take it personally when someone interferes with the performance of their duties.
"It's like their home being broken into," Cain said. "They give a whole lot of time for this department. ... It's not just a fire station. For them, it's MINE because I volunteer there, so it's kind of like my own personal property. They feel violated. All the emotions are there, just like they would be if it was at your home."
And the county's top fire officer isn't immune from those feelings.
"It's the same way with me," Cain said. "You go through all the emotions. You're mad, you're upset, everything. It's kind of like there's nothing sacred anymore."
Cain said the department has standardized all the fire department locks in the county, to a kind that can only be duplicated by the providing company.
But this theft occurred through another entry point.
"If people want in, they're going to get in," Cain said. "That's the problem with a lot of locks and stuff, it's only to keep the honest people out. Society is where it is and that's a shame."