The 31-year-old Orange County, California, man was fighting a vegetation fire in Shingle Springs, east of Sacramento, when he apparently dropped his hose for a shot at freedom.
He stole a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection fire engine and drove it through a fence onto a nearby Rack-It Truck Racks business, before crashing into one of the parked vehicles on the lot, authorities said. He also hit a tree and another fence before becoming stuck in a ditch, surveillance video footage showed.
The inmate had been working with the CAL Fire Amador-El Dorado Unit to extinguish a blaze started by fireworks, CAL Fire spokesperson Alisha Herring told The Epoch Times. The incarcerated firefighter had been assigned to Growlersburg Camp, which deploys incarcerated firefighter hand crews to emergencies such as floods, earthquakes, and search-and-rescue operations.
After the engine was stuck in the ditch, the inmate approached a nearby business and attempted to steal an employee’s vehicle while he was leaving, authorities said. The employee returned to the business and the inmate was unable to start the vehicle.
That’s when he was captured by correctional officers and El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office deputies.
CAL Fire is investigating the incident with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and local law enforcement. The inmate’s name is being withheld due to the ongoing investigation, and it’s unknown what he’s in prison for. He was transferred from Orange County in 2015.
The man was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. He had been assigned to the Conservation Camps Program on March 1.
Officials didn’t say how he was able to get control of the engine or if the keys had been left in the truck.