Video: Calif. fire engine vandalized by crowd

Members of the crowd climbed onto the engine and unfurled a section of fire hose, officials say


Ken Carlson
The Modesto Bee

TURLOCK, Calif. — A city fire engine was surrounded and vandalized Wednesday night by rowdy participants in a side show at a main intersection in Turlock.

Video taken by onlookers shows the slow-moving fire engine, with its lights flashing and siren on, trying to move through a large mob at the intersection. The chaotic video shows young people riding on top and the side of the engine, while others run alongside it.

As the emergency vehicle is surrounded, people vandalize the engine, pulling the hose from the back of it. The footage later shows cars spinning doughnuts in the intersection, as people shoot cell phone videos and cheer.

The unruly incident has sparked a reaction from authorities in Turlock and Stanislaus County, along with calls for action to put a stop to sideshows.

"It's very dangerous," said Vito Chiesa, chairman of Stanislaus County's board of supervisors. Chiesa posted a video from the Turlock incident on his Facebook page Friday.

"It's boorish, childish behavior and it can't be tolerated," Chiesa said.

Capt. Jason Bernard of Turlock Fire Department said he has never seen a sideshow incident become so unruly. "We don't want our guys in harms way like that," he said.

Bernard said no fire personnel were injured.

Turlock police released details of the alarming incident, which occurred about 11 p.m. at the intersection of West Monte Vista and North Berkeley avenues.

The fire engine crew was coming back from a call and came upon the mob associated with a sideshow that was going on. The engine reduced its speed as it tried to get through the crowd.

Turlock police said bystanders, believed to be associated with the sideshow, climbed onto the engine. Some pulled off a section of fire hose and it unfurled on the pavement.

The firefighters activated emergency lights and sounded the horn in an effort to escape. The engine was able to find a safe location to pull over and retrieve the fire hose.

Police officers soon arrived at the scene. By that time, the crowd was dispersing.

No fire personnel were injured and they were not physically assaulted, Bernard said. "No one got inside the cab," the fire captain said.

Turlock police said Wednesday's incident is under investigation. No additional details were released because it's an active investigation.

Officials said the engine suffered minimal damage and has returned to service.

The sideshow is believed to have later moved to Denair, near the intersection of Monte Vista and Fresno avenues. The Sheriff's Department responded shortly after midnight. As the gathering broke up, two vehicles collided and one person was arrested on an excessive speed violation.

Sgt. Luke Schwartz, a sheriff's spokesman, said Friday a number of sideshows occurred Wednesday night in addition to the Turlock incident. The gatherings involving vehicles peeling out, spinning and doing other stunts were anticipated by law enforcement on Wednesday when Cinco de Mayo was celebrated.

Schwartz said special motorcycle units were deployed Wednesday night to assist the CHP and other agencies in responding to sideshows in different parts of the county. The gatherings often are organized on social media.

Schwartz said a number of citations were issued and vehicles were towed away. He didn't have exact details on the number of citations.

Turlock authorities said they have a plan to dedicate more resources to combat the illegal gatherings, where drivers can be cited for reckless driving and spectators may also be cited.

Chiesa said officials will likely put their heads together on a creative enforcement strategy. As an example, authorities anticipated a sideshow last year at the former Crows Landing Naval landing field, he said.

Law enforcement units waited for the reckless driving to begin on the expansive runways and then closed the exits and laid spike strips so no one could leave.

Chiesa said citations were issued and about a dozen cars were towed away.

The county supervisor said dealing with sideshows is a tremendous waste of resources for law enforcement agencies.

As vehicles leave the scene of a sideshow, it is debatable whether police units are justified in chasing them at high speeds. Any arrests or citations may simply involve Vehicle Code violations, though the vandalism of the fire engine Wednesday could result in criminal charges.

"Somehow, this has to change," Chiesa said. "We have to be prepared for these."

The Turlock Police Department is asking that anyone with information about the incident Wednesday call Officer Donna Anthieny at (209) 668-5550, extension 6631. You may also contact the Turlock police Tip Line at (209) 668-5550 extension 6780 or send an email to tpdtipline@turlock.ca.us.

The Turlock Police Department participates in the Crime Stoppers Program. Callers may leave an anonymous tip by calling (209) 521-4636 and may be eligible for a cash reward.

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(c)2021 The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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