Rebecca Black (PA)
A Co Tyrone fire station has been left with reduced capability after the theft of critical equipment.
The station in the Baronscourt Road area of Newtownstewart was broken into between 10.15pm and 10.45pm on Sunday night, police believe.
David Nichol, Western Area Commander of Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS), said several pieces of equipment which are critical in responding to road traffic collisions were stolen.
He said the fire station was left with reduced operational capability as a result, and appealed for the immediate return of the equipment.
The stolen gear included hydraulic cutters, known as “the jaws of life”, which are used to help rescue casualties from serious crashes “when seconds count in saving lives”.
“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 added.
“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.
“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.”
A PSNI spokesperson said two men dressed in dark clothes are believed to have entered through the back door of the premises before making off in a silver or grey Volkswagen Passat with a number of items.
“Inquiries 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,” they said.
“We would appeal to anyone with any information to contact police on 101, quoting reference number 232 20/03/23.”