PRINEVILLE, Ore. - (Update: Adding GoFundMe page, comment by visitor)
Crook County Parks and Recreation has launched a GoFundMe page to help with repairs and add more lighting to the Prineville Wildland Firefighters Monument, which was vandalized this week, with several pieces removed.
Vandals removed pieces of the statue, a walk-through memorial at Ochoco Creek Park dedicated to the nine Prineville Hot Shots among 14 firefighters killed in Colorado’s 1994 Storm King Fire.
The removal of several pieces, including the chainsaw bar from a statue of three firefighters, was reported Wednesday morning, though it might have happened the night before, Prineville Police Officer Jordan Uppendahl said Thursday.
There were children spotted in the area, but there are no suspects at this time, he said.
The torn-off chainsaw bar was recovered nearby, but the statue is still missing a cap to one of the canteens and radio wires, which have not been found, Uppendahl added.
Uppendahl said it isn’t known if the canteen and radio damage was new, but the chainsaw bar was.
He added that the vandalism is “very upsetting to our community and all the men and women who are part of the fire community.”
James Osborne, a former Hot Shot captain, told NewsChannel 21 the monument was a place for family members to remember their loved ones.
Osborne said he couldn't understand why somebody would want to vandalize a monument, knowing all the wildfires burning in Oregon and Northern California and crews working hard to stop them.
"There have been tragic loss across the western United States annually, and for somebody to go in there with the lack of thought and vandalize something, and probably for a lame reason, is tragic," Osborne said.
Prineville Police Chief Dale Cummins said in a post to the department’s Facebook page that after years in law enforcement, “there are few things that can truly make me angry any more, but today was an exception.”
“How could anyone, regardless of age, damage such an important monument?” he asked, adding that the memorial, dedicated in 1996, “defines our city’s heart and dedication to those who serve.”
He also noted that right now, firefighters near and far “are risking their lives fighting wildland fires,” and pointed to the deadly Carr Fire in Redding, Calif., as an example of “how vital, dangerous and important our firefighters’ hard work is to all of us.”
“Police and fire tease each other all the time about who is better,” Cummins wrote, “but at the end of the day, they are our brothers and sisters, and they deserve better than this.”
Redmond and Crook County firefighters conducted their annual cleanup of the memorial in April, according to the monument’s Facebook page.
Anyone with information about the vandalism was urged to contact police either on the Facebook page or by personal message, or by calling non-emergency dispatch at 541-447-4168. Uppendahl can be reached by email at email@example.com, reference Case No. 18-001194.