How difficult is it to steal a fire truck, anyway?
Following the theft of a fire truck in Inuvik, one expert on emergency vehicles told Cabin Radio that kind of incident is “extremely uncommon” – but not especially difficult to accomplish.
The NWT town this week reported its 105-foot ladder truck was stolen while idling outside Inuvik’s fire hall as staff worked in the building’s bays.
The vehicle was ultimately located 129 km south of Inuvik on the Dempster Highway north of Tsiigehtchic.
RCMP arrested a 43-year-old man said to have been the lone driver. The man, who was not identified by police, is accused of stealing the truck and driving it while impaired, among other charges.
Mike Feduniw is an apparatus specialist at Commercial Emergency Equipment, an Alberta-based company that bills itself as Canada’s largest fire truck dealer.
He said operating a fire truck is really no different than driving any other vehicle.
“That’s regardless of whether you’re a career or volunteer firefighter or not a firefighter,” he said. “Typically in the heat of the moment, the last thing you need to be worrying about is driving a vehicle, so they’re set up to be as easy to drive as possible.”
Security features on fire trucks are also similar to regular vehicles, Feduniw said, including door locks and ignition features, though he noted most fire trucks are customized. Some have keys while others have ignition switches.
Despite being fairly easy to drive off the lot if nobody’s looking, Feduniw said Inuvik had joined an extremely exclusive club in having a fire truck go missing.
In May 2005, a truck was reportedly stolen from the fire station in Red Deer, Alberta.
In November 2019, a man was accused of stealing a fire truck in Winnipeg and taking it on a joyride through the city’s downtown.
“I’ve been doing this for 16 years and I think those are the only three I’ve seen,” Feduniw said.
The Town of Inuvik said on Wednesday the fire truck, since returned from its trip, had received only minor damage. A more detailed assessment of the vehicle was planned.
The town said a replacement for the 2011-model truck would have cost more than $750,000.