SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - As the CZU Lightning Complex continues to burn across San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties, fire and police officials now have another issue to worry about; burglaries.
Cal Fire said a fire ground commander was directing crews in the fire zone when someone got into his car, stole his wallet and drained his bank account. His money was used in several different locations.
Cal Fire Operations Chief Mark Brunton called the situation saddening and sickening.
The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office is investigating and looking for surveillance video to track down the person or people involved.
“Frankly, I can’t believe someone would actually 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,” said Chief Deputy Clark with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office.
The sheriff’s office will have 60 deputies from their office and 34 from other agencies in the fire zone throughout the day to prevent burglaries and looting.
Saturday, they got three other reports of suspicious people in evacuated areas. While no arrests were made, they’re on high alert, “Burglary suppression was the name of our game,” said Clark.
Cal Fire doesn’t have a donation campaign set up for the fire commander. A spokesperson warns people to be weary of accounts claiming to raise money for the commander. Officials have also said that the firefighter's insurance is covering his losses and encouraged would-be supporters to consider making a donation to a well-known organization rather than a GoFundMe account, which could have been set up as a scam.
This incident comes just days after five people were arrested on suspicion of looting in Santa Cruz County.
At a 2 p.m. Sunday, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s office will hold a news conference to discuss looting issues and prosecution.
The lightning-caused blaze, which started the morning of August 16, has now burned 71,000 acres and is 8 percent contained, Cal Fire said Sunday morning. There have been no injuries or fatalities.