STOCKTON — A Stockton fire crew had to act quickly after a man tried to take off with their fire engine early Saturday morning while they were fighting a fire.
When engine 7 drove up to Jill Circle around 4:30 Saturday morning, fires were blazing at multiple spots on the street but another issue flared up as well.
Stockton police say 30-year-old Victor Voroukoumanah was pushing a lit garbage can up a driveway when fire crews arrived before he hopped in the front seat of the truck.
“[Voroukoumanah] got behind the steering wheel and was able to disengage the break and throttle the engine up as if he was going to take off,” said Stockton Fire Battalion Chief Travis Winton.
Stockton fire says after a short struggle, they were able to remove the suspect.
Police say the suspect struck two firefighters, though Winton says the firefighters were not hurt and were able to resume their shifts.
“With only a three-person engine company that limits the number of eyes that you have and hands that you have to take care of these things. So, while they were fighting the fire, one individual was still keeping an eye on the engine and noticed that he got in the cab,” Winton said.
One fire official said they were paying attention to that suspect when they first arrived on the scene because he was acting erratically. As a result, they were able to work quickly to ensure the situation did not get out of hand.
Winton says this is the first time he knows of someone getting into the fire engine and did not think there was anything the department would need to change procedure wise.
“The biggest thing we try to teach our folks is to always remain aware of your surroundings, keep your eyes open, pay attention to who’s around you and what they are doing, work as a team to do that. To expect the unexpected, which they did, and they were able to handle it successfully,” Winton said.
This comes less than two weeks after 34-year-old Natasha Scott stole an ambulance at St. Joseph’s hospital in Stockton and a week after 34-year-old Aaron Avitan stole a CHP cruiser and a Delta College bus near Sacramento State. Winton says these instances do not necessarily mean stealing those types of vehicles is the new norm.
“I think the potential has always been there, it’s just that we have to raise our awareness, heighten our awareness of these events and go from there,” Winton said.
The suspect faces charges for attempting to steal a vehicle, battery on a firefighter and arson.