Strinestown, PA (WPMT) — A 15-year-old is facing a number of charges, accused of stealing a rescue vehicle and taking it on a joyride throughout York County. Officials say the teenager is a former junior firefighter for Strinestown Volunteer Fire Company.
The Strinestown fire chief says the teenager was training to ride along in the rescue truck so he knew the station, where things are, and how to get inside.
"My phone rang at a little bit after 1 in the morning, and it was county asking me if I knew where the rescue truck was, and as I told you, I said, ‘It’s in the station,’ and he said, ‘no, it’s not. It’s in Hellam Township on Freysville Road stuck in the mud,’" said Chief Harold ‘Frosty’ Wertz.
"A male was observed running from the vehicle, wearing fire duty, turnout gear," explained Deputy Chief David Lash with Northern York County Regional Police.
The former junior firefighter for Strinestown Volunteer Fire Company is now facing burglary, criminal mischief, and auto theft charges related to the joyride according to Northern York County Regional Police.
The teenager is also accused of stealing a Ford Explorer from the York County Youth Development Center, which he left.
The fire chief says he drove the explorer into the company’s engine bay, breaking the door, so he could get inside the building.
"The bay door was caved in, the door was up for here, the rescue was gone, and the rest – history," said Chief Wertz.
That’s when the chief says he walked back to the equipment rack, put on a full set of gear, hopped inside the vehicle, and took off on his adventure.
‘This is the first time in my 25 and a half years, we’ve ever had a fire truck stolen from one of our stations," added Deputy Chief Lash.
A neighbor on Freysville Road, where the suspect ditched the vehicle and some gear, initially mistook the teenager for a legitimate firefighter.
"I thought he was a first responder or whatever, going to a call, so I automatically see him getting stuck and I automatically wanted to help him out. I’m a truck driver by trade too," explained Brad Willson, a neighbor. "So I automatically get in there, and I’m like ‘here, turn the wheel like this. Here, flip this switch. And when the officer, got here, he’s like, ‘we’re going to dust it for prints,’ and I’m like, ‘yeah, I was in there. I was touching this and this and this.’"
The joyride put the fire truck out of commission for two days while police investigated the rescue and pending an inspection.
The chief says he wants neighbors to know it is not the norm.
"Please don’t think the volunteer fire system is made of bad eggs. It’s just once in a while somebody is not fit for the system," said Chief Wertz.
At this time, police are not releasing surveillance video from inside the station.
The York County district attorney’s office will determine if the teenager will be tried as a juvenile or adult.