RUSK - Once it served to protect a community from the dangers of grass fires, house fires and vehicle accidents. Today it sits stripped of much of its emergency equipment and body parts in a Cherokee County salvage yard.
Cherokee County Sheriff James Campbell said a 1977 Chevrolet fire truck missing from the Poynor Volunteer Fire Department was located Tuesday after deputies arrested two men in connection with the burglary of weapons, jewelry and a coin collection.
"Unfortunately, the truck was found stripped and the equipment, including fireman's bunker gear, was strewn in a wooded area in close proximity to one of the suspect's homes," he said. "They had taken the fenders, hood, sirens, lights, water tank and bed of the truck off. Basically, there is nothing left of the fire truck."
Campbell said deputies working a burglary of a building in the Oakland community were led to one of the suspects who acted suspicious during an interview.
"We secured the scene and sent a deputy back to obtain a search warrant. We eventually found 20 stolen weapons, a silver coin collection, jewelry, six marijuana plants and the fire truck reported stolen from the Poynor Fire Department in April of this year," he said.
The sheriff said it was unclear when the burglary occurred, because the owner had been out of town.
"The suspects allegedly broke into a storage building, then used the victim's own cutting torch to open the safe. When he (the victim) returned to town, he noticed the burglary and called our department," he said.
Campbell said Walter Walker, 24, of Oakland and Patrick Franklin, 24, of Jacksonville were arrested on burglary of a building and possession of marijuana charges. Each man's bonds were set at $15,000 and they remain in the Cherokee County Jail.
Henderson County sheriff's investigators are also working the case and Lt. Pat McWilliams, the department's public information officer, said the investigation is ongoing.
Campbell said any charges related to the fire truck would come from the Henderson County Sheriff department, because the truck was stolen in that county.
The fenders and hood of the truck were found mounted to a Chevrolet Blazer, which, Campbell said, also was stolen.
"The fenders of the fire truck were on the Blazer and the siren and speaker were installed on another vehicle, which didn't even have axles on it, at the property.
Campbell said the Blazer's vehicle identification number was missing and the license plate was registered to a Volkswagen vehicle.
"You could call this good police work or just luck. Sometimes I'd rather be lucky. I just wish that truck wasn't so torn up," he said.
Kenneth Dean covers Cherokee and Rusk counties. He can be reached at (903) 596-6353 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.