SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — A commander fighting the CZU Lightning Complex fires in California returned to his department vehicle to find his wallet stolen and bank account drained.
CAL FIRE Operations Chief Mark Brunton addressed the incident in a press conference Sunday morning, calling it "sickening."
“It’s unfortunate. It’s sickening that one of our Fire Ground Commanders, in that area, while out taking care of business and directing firefighting crews, somebody entered his vehicle, his department vehicle, and stole his wallet and drained his bank account,” Brunton said.
The accused theft comes as local media outlets report five people were arrested earlier in the week under the suspicion of looting evacuated homes.
Brunton reiterated that this incident is one of the reasons why officials are asking for people to evacuate. "We are doing everything we can to try to help the community," he said.
But, the stolen items and drained back account were just the start. The CAL FIRE CZU Twitter page also claims a fake GoFundMe has been started in the commander's name since the news broke.
"WARNING: A GoFundMe account is circulating, purporting to be established in support of the CAL FIRE employee whose personal belongings were stolen recently. This account is not associated with CAL FIRE, or anyone connected to the department. Please use caution if donating," it wrote.
Fire officials say the investigation has been handed over to the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office.
California firefighters are racing to slow the spread of wildfires that have destroyed hundreds of homes, forced tens of thousands to evacuate and destroyed one million acres in a week, according to the Associated Press.
As of 8:43 p.m. PT, CAL FIRE reports 74,000 acres have burned in the CZU Lightning Complex fires.
During a Friday press conference, Gov. Gavin Newsome said there have been 560 fires statewide during its heatwave.
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