Thief breaks into search and rescue volunteer's car, prevents them from responding to Camp Fire

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- When Fresno County search and rescuers volunteered to go up to the Camp Fire, they expected to encounter many images of despair.

Instead, Sue Spano and her teammates experienced heartbreak of their own.

"It was really very disheartening; I just couldn't believe this happened," Spano said.

Spano and two other volunteers were carpooling up to Butte County Friday, Nov. 23.

As they stopped in Turlock to get some food, thieves broke into their car and stole almost all their gear.

"As soon as I saw the broken glass I knew it wasn't good, probably our day was done," said Edward Vargas, volunteer.

The volunteers tried to push on. They were supposed to relieve their teammates who had spent the last few days searching for animal and human remains in Paradise.

But the stolen equipment totaled more than $7,000 and was too much to overcome.

"It was a pretty big letdown. We weren't just trying to help the victims of Butte County who were missing their loved ones, but we were also part of a team," Sue Spano said.

Edwin Vargas doesn't believe the thieves understand the gravity of what they stole.

"When you could have done something, and you didn't, that hurts and that's why this weekend was so hard because we could have, we were doing to do something, and we got that yanked away from us," he said.

Because the volunteers supply their own gear, they can't respond to future missions until they pay to replace it.

That inability to help is what pains them the most.

If you wish to help these three volunteers replace their stolen gear, you can make a donation online by visiting
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