'Everything was gone': Firefighters battling California wildfire victims of car burglary

The finance officer says these missing time cards "can have a lasting impact on all of our firefighters for months or even years with these pay issues. It can even affect their retirement."
POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE -- Firefighters battling the Woodward Fire in Point Reyes National Seashore in California are dealing with a different kind of adversity, after thousands of dollars of firefighting equipment was stolen from a Bureau of Land Management rental car early Tuesday morning.

Firefighter Sara Lee, a Finance Section Chief with the Bureau of Land Management, returned to her San Rafael hotel after a long day of fighting the fire and coordinating evacuations. She took her computer bag and luggage with her to her room.

Left inside the SUV was food, camping equipment, and IT equipment for the finance section. The following morning, it was mostly gone.

"I opened the back door to put my computer bag in and I noticed the glass was everywhere, everything in there had been tossed around," said Lee. "Food and some of the time cards for the firefighters. When I looked in the back almost everything was gone."

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Firefighter's time cards were among the stolen items, creating an unnecessary headache for crews already stretched for resources. Lee's team is contacting individual firefighters to verify their time cards via phone and email, but worry it could be distracting from their work.

"They need to be focusing on fighting the fire, and we need to be focusing on the finance section to make sure they're paid adequately for their time for all the hazardous work they do," said Lee. "It's put us behind in our support for the firefighters in many ways."

It's the second case of California firefighters being the victims of theft. Earlier this week, a fire commander's wallet was taken from a parked fire truck in Bonny Doon at the CZU Lightning Complex. Santa Cruz sheriff released photos of a suspect, who they say drained the commanders bank account and used his credit card at a local gas station.

For Sarah Lee, it's a setback that she hopes doesn't have a ripple effect in the future.

"I know this doesn't reflect on citizens of Marin County, and this is just one or two bad apples, but that can have a lasting impact on all of our firefighters for months or even years with these pay issues. It can even affect their retirement," said Lee. "When a community is already trying to band together for these devastating wildfires, we just need to treat each other well. And the people that are trying to help them too."
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