Mike Wilbur


An inmate firefighter is in custody after he went on a joyride in a fire engine and damaged property at a truck rack company before crashing, authorities in Shingle Springs, California, and a business owner say.

Cal Fire said it responded to a vegetation fire that sparked after neighbors reported illegal fireworks around 11 p.m. Sunday night.

Bill Wilde lives nearby and heard the fireworks.

“We prepared to evacuate, loaded up things in the car, got people out,” Wilde said.

When he saw firefighters responding to the fire, he went to the area to try to talk to them. As he waited, Wilde said, he noticed another situation was developing. He said he heard a bunch of crashing noises.

Cal Fire said a 31-year-old inmate, who was part of the firefighting crew, took off in a fire engine. Surveillance video shows the vehicle plow through a fence at Rack-It Truck Racks, a nearby business.

Owner Van Thompson said the fire engine landed on two truck racks, dragging them through his property. Sparks flew as they scraped along the parking lot, and the fire engine smashed into Thompson’s truck before crashing through a second fence on the way out.

“He was probably in here 30 seconds at the most,” Thompson said. “Did a lot of damage in 30 seconds.”

The inmate then drove the fire engine through other business properties before crashing into a ditch, totaling the vehicle, according to Cal Fire.

Surveillance video shared with sister station KCRA shows how some of the wild ride unfolded.

The inmate is back in custody and was hospitalized for his injuries, according to Cal Fire, which is investigating the incident along with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the California Highway Patrol and the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office.

According to a joint statement from Cal Fire and CDCR, the inmate was admitted from Orange County in 2015. He is expected to recover. Authorities said his name is being withheld “pending the ongoing investigation.”

wrecked cal fire truck

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