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Rural Douglas County fire department hit by thieves

In the middle of a snowstorm last month, someone broke into a Dairyland Volunteer Fire Department building and stole items worth thousands of dollars.

In the middle of a snowstorm last month, someone broke into a Dairyland Volunteer Fire Department building and stole items worth thousands of dollars.

The incident took place between 11 p.m. April 22 and 1 a.m. April 23. The thieves took fire gear, saws, medical supplies, air tanks, a gas detector and more from the fire department's satellite station at 16567 S. North Road. They also cut radios out of two trucks, putting both vehicles out of commission.

The theft didn't just affect the fire department.

"It hurts the community," Dairyland Fire Chief Mike Knutson said Wednesday in Barnes, where he and five other members of the department were helping protect homes in the path of the Germann Road wildfire.

The volunteer department has 11 members and responds to about 40 calls a year. According to the Douglas County Sheriff's Office report, more than $44,000 worth of items was stolen.

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"We have enough resources, we have enough mutual aid -- that's not a problem," Knutson said. "But it's the principle: to steal the stuff from the fire department."

For the chief, it's a case of déjà vu. A similar incident occurred in Dairyland about 11 years ago, Knutson said. The culprits never were caught.

Two gloves, a blue baseball cap and some cigarette butts were found at the site after the April 23 burglary. Once the snow melted, deputies were able to get impressions from vehicle tracks outside the building, which appeared to have been made by a shorter SUV like a Blazer or Jeep. Anyone with information on the burglary is asked to call 911 or Sgt. Richard Schnell with the sheriff's office, (715) 395-1371.

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