SHINGLE SPRINGS, Calif. (KTXL) – A state prison inmate firefighter stole a fire engine in Shingle Springs overnight and drove it into a ditch.
Cal Fire spokesperson Alisha Herring said the Amador-El Dorado Unit, which included an inmate crew based in Georgetown, was responding to a grass fire Sunday night before the incident occurred.
Neighborhood resident Bill Wilde was on scene because firefighters went to the wrong site, and said he was glad the inmate crew was there.
“Those guys will be here all night, this is great news,” Wilde recalled thinking. “A few minutes later, the guy takes off in a firetruck and the chief takes chasing after him.”
The suspect led California Highway Patrol units on a slow-speed chase through the dirt before the engine ripped out 100 feet of fencing. It then ran into the yard of a truck rack company where inventory was stacked up, leaving behind a trail of twisted steel.
“So he actually landed on top of a couple of them, and drags it through the parking lot, sparking, slammed into one of our trucks,” said Travis Thompson of Rack-it Truck Racks.
Thompson said he was astounded at what he saw Monday morning before viewing his security video. Cameras had picked up the firetruck in the distance doing doughnuts in the dirt.
Customers that had to endure long waits because of a steel shortage will have to wait some more, he added.
“We have product that’s damaged. We have fencing that’s out. We have stacks of racks that were set to go to customers,” Thompson said. “It’s going to be a big hit to us.”
The owners of the company haven’t yet totaled up their losses, but they said it could have been worse.
No one was injured other than the suspect, who suffered cuts and scratches. He had ended up in a ditch after driving out of the truck rack yard, severely damaging the engine.
Wilde said the inmate tried to get away before being captured.
“They piled on the guy until the sheriff’s office could get here,” Wilde told FOX40.
It was a wild ride for neighbors who were preparing to evacuate.
“You call ‘em back and say, ‘There’s a convict loose in the neighborhood, lock all the doors and don’t go outside,’” Wilde said.
“It’s strange that they’re allowing the inmate crews to be doing stuff in such a residential area,” Thompson remarked.
Cal Fire investigators were on scene to investigate the incident, but they are only saying that the suspect is now in custody.
The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office referred all inquiries to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. They have not responded to FOX40’s requests for more information on the suspect.