As He Fought a California Fire, an 'Absolutely Disgusting' Act

Firefighter's wallet stolen, account drained while he worked; looters also break into evacuated homes
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 24, 2020 11:00 AM CDT
As Calif. Fires Burn, Scammers and Thieves Make Their Moves
Spot fires burn on a hillside in Brentwood, Calif., on Aug. 17, 2020.   (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group via AP)

While some firefighting crews are working 72-hour shifts to battle the massive blazes now ravaging California, opportunists are taking advantage of both those on the front lines and residents affected by the fires. "Absolutely disgusting behavior," "saddening," and "sickening" is how fire officials are describing one incident reported by Cal Fire over the weekend, in which a Santa Cruz fire ground commander returned to his work truck (which was parked in an evacuation zone) after battling the CZU Lightning Complex Fire and found his wallet was gone, per KRON4. Later on, he discovered more bad news: Someone had taken all the money out of his bank account. An investigation into the incident is ongoing by the sheriff's office.

"I can't believe someone would have the nerve to break into a firefighter's vehicle or enter their vehicle to steal something from them when they're there to protect the community," Chris Clark, chief deputy with the Santa Cruz Sheriff's Office, tells the Chronicle. "It honestly blows me away." The unlucky firefighter isn't the only recent theft victim. KTLA reports that at least five people have been arrested for looting, targeting the abandoned homes of residents forced to evacuate. And there's yet another scam making the rounds, Clark warns: He tells KSBW that imposters are calling local residents claiming to be reps from utilities, law enforcement, or other agencies, asking residents to pay money they owe. "If you get a call from any sort of official source, if you question the validity of it—and you should question the validity of those calls—contact the agency directly," he says. (More California wildfires stories.)

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