USA –– Alaska wildfire crews have been hit by burglars for the second time in three years. One of the two Mat-Su Valley based wildfire crews discovered the break-in yesterday morning.
The Gannett Glacier crew had just returned from fighting a fire near Fairbanks, and the Pioneer Peak Hotshots are currently fighting wildfires out of state.
The wildfire crews headquarters of the Alaska Division of Forestry, located behind the Mat-Su Regional Hospital, was hit sometime over the weekend.
State troopers said the thieves stole personal items and state equipment. State property included $1000 heavy-duty chainsaws and laptop computers. Personal items were taken from lockers and the parking lot, including two Toyota pickup trucks.
Made-up of 20 personnel each, the Gannett Glacier Crew and Pioneer Peak Hotshots typically fight wildfires in Alaska. Although due to plenty of rainfall slowing down this year’s fire season and an early fire season in the lower 48, the Pioneer Peak Hotshots were sent to Utah and are about to assist in a fire near Boise, Idaho.
The Gannett Glacier crew will stay for a few days during the investigation, but likely be sent to the lower 48, officials said.
It was not clear how the burglars entered the building, but found locks broken by bolt cutters, troopers said.
Officials said this burglary was similar to the 2009 incident, but did not see the same extent of vandalism.
“A lot of the items they stole are specific for wildland firefighting, the backpacks, the chainsaws, they are marked. If people see somebody who is not part of a fire crew wearing that gear, using that gear, or trying to sell that gear, it doesn’t belong to them,” said Norm McDonald of the Alaska Division of Forestry.
Anyone with information about the burglary, the vehicles, or stolen items are asked to call state troopers in Palmer at: 745-2131 or Mat-Su Crime Stoppers at: 745-3333.
Authorities are looking for two Toyota pickups. One truck is a silver 2002 Toyota Tundra with Alaska license plate: SHA176. The second truck is a white ’98 Toyota Tacoma license plate number: ETD399.