Firefighters have been forced to operate on a reduced capacity after several pieces of life-saving equipment were stolen in an overnight burglary.
Police received a report of the burglary at a fire station Baronscourt Road area of Newtownstewart this morning and believe that it occurred between 10:15pm and 10:45pm last night.
It is believed that two men wearing dark clothing entered through the rear of the station and then made off with a number of items in a silver or grey Volkswagen Passat.
David Nichol, Western Area Commander with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, confirmed several pieces of equipment critical to responding to road traffic collisions were taken in the break-in.
“Other items including an angle grinder, a drill and an electric saw have also been stolen and substantial damage was caused to the back door of the Fire Station from forced entry to the building," he said.
“The break-in was discovered this morning [Monday March 20] around 7.30am. It is believed the items were stolen between 10.15pm and 10.45pm last night [Sunday March 19].
“Known as hydraulic cutters or ‘the jaws of life’, these vital pieces of operational equipment are used by Newtownstewart Firefighters to help rescue casualties from serious road traffic collisions - when seconds count in saving lives. I am appealing for all of these items to be returned to the Fire Station immediately."
David said that Newtownstewart Fire Station has had reduced operational capability today with Firefighters unable to respond to road traffic collisions in the area for a period of time until this equipment was replaced.
"I would like to reassure the local community that contingency arrangements are in place to maintain our full emergency response in the area. Arrangements are being taken to replace the equipment and contractors are also on site to repair the damage to the Station," he added.
“It’s very disappointing that NIFRS and local Firefighters who work tirelessly for their community, would be targeted in such a way that leaves the community without lifesaving equipment.
"I recognise the impact this has had on Newtownstewart Firefighters and I would like to thank them for their dedication to their community and their support at this time.
“ PSNI Officers have attended the scene and we continue to liaise with them on their enquiries. PSNI have stated that two men dressed in dark clothes forced entry through the back door of the Fire Station before making off in a silver or grey Volkswagen Passat with a number of items."
Inspector McDermott said: "We received a report this morning, Monday 20th March, that a fire station had been broken to yesterday, Sunday 19th March. Following initial enquiries we now believe that the break in occurred between 10.15pm and 10.45pm last night.
"We believe that two men dressed in dark clothes entered through the back door of the premises, before making off in a silver or grey Volkswagen Passat with a number of items.
“Enquiries are continuing and officers investigating this report are keen to hear from witnesses or anyone who may have captured CCTV or dashcam footage in the area.
"We would appeal to anyone with any information to contact police on 101, quoting reference number 232 20/03/23. Alternatively, you can submit a report online using the non-emergency reporting form via www.psni.police.uk/makeareport/.You can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org/."