California authorities arrested an inmate firefighter after he took an official fire engine on a joyride, damaging property at a truck rack company before crashing the vehicle.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said officials responded to a vegetation fire that began after residents in the area reported illegal fireworks being lighted around 11:00 p.m. on Sunday.
Inmate Firefighter’s Joyride
One resident in the area, Bill Wilde, said, “We prepared to evacuate, loaded up things in the car, got people out.” It was then that he said he saw firefighters approaching the fire and he wanted to talk to them. However, while he was waiting for fire officials, he witnessed another incident unfold, hearing crashing noises nearby.
Fire officials said a 31-year-old inmate firefighter who was part of the crew at the scene quickly took off with the fire engine. Surveillance video in the area showed the engine ramming through a metal fence at a nearby business establishment, Rack-It Truck Racks.
The owner of the business, Van Thompson, said the vehicle landed on two truck racks and dragged them across the property. The friction between the racks and the parking lot caused sparks along the vehicle’s path before it crashed into Thompson’s truck and later on through a second fence while it made its way out of the property.
“He was probably in here 30 seconds at the most. Did a lot of damage in 30 seconds,” Thompson said during an interview. Cal Fire said the inmate then drove the fire engine through several other business properties in the area before falling in a ditch, totaling the vehicle.
Authorities quickly took the inmate back into custody and transported him to the hospital due to sustaining injuries during the joyride. Cal Fire said it was investigating the case with the help of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the California Highway Patrol and the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, KOAT reported.
The suspect was admitted from Orange County in 2015, Cal Fire and CDCR said in a joint statement regarding the incident. Medical professionals said the inmate would recover and authorities are keeping the suspect’s name hidden while an investigation is ongoing.