Life-saving equipment used by firefighters to free people caught up in road traffic collisions has been stolen in a sickening burglary in County Tyrone.
The culprits broke into Newtownstewart Fire Station some time overnight.
And David Nichol, Western Area Commander off the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service, confirmed that “several pieces of equipment, which are critical to our operational response to road traffic collisions, have been stolen”.
He added: “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.
“The break-in was discovered this morning (Monday 20 March) around 7.30am. It is believed the items were stolen between 10.15pm and 10.45pm last night (Sunday 19 March).
“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.
“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.
“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.
“Enquiries are continuing and PSNI 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/.”