SULLIVAN, Maine — In less than 24 hours after posting the theft of $40,000 worth of rescue equipment on Facebook, the Sullivan Volunteer Fire Department recovered the gear after someone dumped it on a rural road.
Several pieces that together make up the Jaws of Life rescue apparatus were taken from the department’s firehouse on Tunk Lake Road at some point within the last 10 days, according to Sullivan Fire Chief Chris Eklund.
“A week and a half ago, we looked at the Jaws when we were cleaning at the firehouse,” he said Saturday afternoon. “When we went to the truck around 4 p.m. (Friday) one of my guys looked in the back and it was not there.”
Purchased over a number of years, the Jaws of Life is an assembly of a spreader, a cutter, hoses, pumps, a ram and an ram extension.
All of it was missing.
Eklund turned to social media Friday evening, posting photos and descriptions of the missing equipment with a request for any information leading to its recovery.
The theft also was reported to the Maine State Police.
The post received more than 1,000 hits within three hours, Eklund said. At 3:30 a.m. Saturday, someone called the Maine State Police telling them the gear could be found about 2 miles up the Upper Falls Road in Orland.
On Saturday afternoon, Eklund was on his way back to to the fire station with the recovered gear and said he is unsure of the extent of any damage sustained.
“The hoses are full of dirt,” he said. “We have a guy that deals with this type of equipment coming in Monday to service it.”
Eklund said he is very happy to have it back, but he and the police still want the person who took it found.
“We were like, ‘Who would do this?’” he said. “It could be their father or mother who needed to be rescued using it. They just don’t think.”
Rescue personnel use the Jaws of Life to cut open badly damaged vehicles or structures to extricate accident victims. Eklund said the theft could have been a disaster for his department.
“We’ve been buying it piece by piece,” Eklund said. “We had numerous fundraisers to help support that.”
Replacement cost for an entire Jaws of Life unit is $40,000, according to Eklund.
In addition to the Jaws of Life theft, Eklund said a generator was stolen from the firehouse last month and has not been recovered.
Security has been beefed up at the station with new surveillance cameras and door locks he said.
Anyone with information about the missing generator or the person or persons responsible for the Jaws of Life theft are encouraged to contact the Sullivan Volunteer Fire Department or the Maine State Police, Eklund said.
“This could have been a disaster for us,” he said. “We need this gear to respond when anybody is trapped in a car. Someone could lose a life if we don’t have it.”