Harris County, TX: April 10th, 2014 – Charges have been filed against a former Ponderosa volunteer firefighter accused of stealing thousands of dollars in gear from his former station.
Shane Fisher, 26, has been charged with theft by public servant, according to Harris County court documents. Fisher was visited by a Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office official in early February and he turned over the gear, which is now in the custody of the fire marshal.
According to court documents, Fisher admitted in a recorded video statement while talking to officials that he knew the gear was not his to keep after he ended his time with the department.
Fisher is currently out on $5,000 bond. He appeared in Harris County court this morning.
Fred Windisch, fire chief at the Ponderosa Fire Department in north Houston, said Fisher had ample time and notice to return nearly $4,000 in firefighting gear that he left with after he ended his time at the fire department.
Ponderosa FD is made up of part-time, full-time, and volunteer firefighters. They employ 12 firefighters now and plan to add 4 more by June 1, Windisch said. The missing equipment will be needed for the new hires.
Fisher joined Ponderosa in the summer of 2009. He was well-liked by his fellow first responders, Windisch said.
“He was a pretty good member at the #63 station, but he had some issues with his day job that we worked with him on,” Windisch said Thursday, adding that Fisher began falling off from his tasks at the station in 2012.
“When he was at his peak he was a great firefighter,” said Windisch. “He was responded to at least 20 scenes a month with us.” He last stood along side his fellow firefighters at a July 2013 fire.
By September 2013, he moved away to Spring, according to Windisch, and he wasn’t heard from. But he still had Ponderosa’s gear in his possession.
Windisch said the gear that Fisher had at his home wasn’t cheap.
“A fire coat runs $1,300, fire pants cost about a grand,” he said, adding that a fire helmet and hood are almost $500 alone. Boots are $225 a pair, with gloves going for $150 per pair.
The loss of these items put the already strapped department at a disadvantage for new members.
“We make things happen with a tight budget as it is, so he was putting us out, but we weren’t missing anything that was hindering us from fighting fires,” Windisch said.
The fire chief said that last fall the department tried contacting Fisher and his wife, who didn’t return calls, text messages, or even a certified demand letter, which was sent in December.
Finally, Windisch said, the fire marshal’s office stepped in.
“He didn’t need it, I think he just didn’t want to return it,” said Windisch. “It’s silly that he didn’t want to return and sillier that he’s facing charges for it.”
Windisch said Fisher could have sold the equipment on the Internet if he wanted to. On occasion, Windisch has seen fire equipment on eBay or Craigslist, most of which he said wasn’t acquired legally.
“I don’t think there was ill intent, I just think he was lazy and felt he had no personal responsibility,” Windisch said.
For now the equipment is still in the custody of the fire marshal, Windisch laments, but he hopes that its released by the time his new hires arrive for duty. He’s just glad he didn’t steal something big, like a fire truck.
“You don’t mess with my fire trucks,” said Windisch.
Source: Houston Chronicle 2014 – http://www.chron.com/default/article/Former-volunteer-firefighter-accused-of-stealing-5392364.php