The man who stole a fire truck Sunday morning not only endangered the public by driving it the wrong direction down a one-way street before smashing it into a tree but also stuck Winnipeg taxpayers with a hefty repair bill -- possibly in the $300,000 to $400,000 range.
The city's fleet is "self-insured," meaning the city sets aside money in budgets to pay for repairs and replacements rather than pay premiums to an outside insurer, said Andy Burgess, assistant chief of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service.
And now it will have to dip into that money big time.
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"It's frustrating that we've lost a new vehicle," said Burgess, noting the truck, which has a 15-year life expectancy, had been in service less than two weeks.
City mechanics and a representative from E-One, the truck's Florida-based manufacturer, will look it over in the coming days to decide whether it's cheaper to repair it or simply replace it.
"We'll go with the most economical option," said Burgess, noting the trucks are $500,000 to $600,000 new.
In the meantime, a spare truck that was supposed to be retired will fill the void, he said.
Police said a man stole the truck as firefighters were answering a medical call on Kennedy Street, about 1:40 a.m. Sunday.
The vehicle, which has an automatic transmission, was idling and unattended
The man then apparently drove the wrong way down Cumberland Avenue for a few blocks, then smashed the truck into a cement bus bench which, in turn, took out a bus shelter before slamming the truck into the base of a mature tree.
The truck was still covered in branches yesterday, and its whole front left side looked like it had been ripped apart by a bomb.
Firefighters had to cut the man out of the vehicle before taking him to hospital.
"There was some consolation for them in that the person responsible was still on scene when police arrived," said Burgess.
Police said the man will be charged with impaired driving, refusing a blood sample and theft over $5,000. His name was not released.
The last person to be charged with stealing a Winnipeg fire truck was David William Davis, who was convicted of stealing a pumper on New Year's Day 2004.
After spending the next seven months in jail, he was found guilty on July 30, 2004, of theft over $5,000 and driving while disqualified. He was sentenced to time served.