OAKFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- We depend on them during emergencies, but one West Michigan firefighter is now limited in the way he can do his job after more than $2000 worth of equipment was stolen from him.
“It’s sad to see people take something that people use to save other peoples' lives,” said Ryan Ford, 26, a volunteer firefighter at Oakfield Township Fire Department.
The stolen gear is not just affecting Ryan Ford’s job but is having a domino effect on the Oakfield Township Fire Department's staff and their budget.
Ford is still at a loss for words after he was stripped of his equipment Saturday night. “I went to fire school Sunday morning and found out all my gear was gone,” he said.
The gear was swiped from his Jeep sometime between 7:00 p.m. and midnight Saturday.
“I keep my fire knives in there, my helmet, my no mask hood, which goes over your face. I had my bunker pants, boots, and gloves.”
Without the gear, Ford and the department have a few problems. One: He's finishing up fire school.
“On the days we have our class we have training,” he said. "They will go to tell us to spray a fire or something, so we will go put our gear on, which I don't have gear to participate."
The Oakfield Township Fire Department staff will be affected, too. Chief Samuel Peterson says there are only 12 volunteer fire fighters available to respond to the 250 emergency calls they average per year.
“The other fire fighters might have to pick up some slack on some of the things that Ryan would usually be able to scoot into,” said Chief Peterson.
The money needed to replace Ford's gear will take away from some urgent repairs the department was hoping to make before the end of the year.
“For one thing, we are looking to replace the rescue box that you see behind me here, because that's getting old and starting to rust.”
The Oakfield Township Fire Department serves 5,000 residences in a 36-mile radius, and the firefighters have to be ready with proper equipment made specifically to fit them. It will take three to four months for Ford to receive the proper equipment that fits him.
Until then, he is using makeshift gear that’s entirely too big for him. “My boots are a size 10, and I wear an 8-1/2, so when I run, my feet kind of slip up,” said Ford, not only affecting his range of motion but his safety. “My pants drag a little bit, so they would get torn up if I’m running around at a fire. If the pants split at the ends, it can catch fire and burn me up."
More than anything, the department is disappointed.
“It’s unimaginable to me how somebody could take this kind of equipment that there’s really no other use for, something that our people need in order to perform their job for the community,” said Peterson.
The gear had Ford’s name and address on it. The department is asking anyone with the gear or who knows about the gear to call them with information or drop it at the department with no questions asked.