Woman using fire hose in Cache fire accused of stealing Lake County fire equipment

2022-03-12 06:36:01 By : Mr. Dengkui Wu

A woman photographed using a fire hose to water down trees along her Cache Creek property during the Cache fire earlier this month is facing a criminal theft charge, which alleges she stole a huge length of fire hose from local firefighters.

Arrested July 11, Rebecca Moresi, 31, of the Lower Lake area, was allowed to remain free pending her Aug. 31 arraignment in Lake County Superior Court on theft charges.

The origins of the fire hose she was using when photographed by a Press Democrat photographer on Aug. 18 are unknown. Moresi did not return a Press Democrat reporter’s calls requesting a comment, which were made in the days since the blaze began.

On Thursday, another Press Democrat reporter tried to reach Moresi for comment at her Dam Road address, but access was prevented by a chained gate and a “no trespassing” sign.

Following a June 21 fire near where the Cache fire burned, Dam Road and Wilkinson Avenue, officers from the Clearlake Police Department began investigating the theft of 4,000 feet of wild land fire hose, nozzles, connectors and other fixtures that were stolen during that incident.

That fire grew to 25 acres and nearby homes were evacuated, police said at the time. Lake County Fire Protection District firefighters remained in the area for several days to monitor hot spots.

After the bulk of that blaze was extinguished, crews left some fire equipment at the scene to assist if there were any flareups, district Fire Chief Willie Sapeta said.

It’s a common practice, allowing firefighters to respond quickly without having to break down and set up equipment repeatedly.

Sapeta reported the theft the following day, and about 1,100 feet of the hose and some of the connectors were soon returned anonymously, he said.

“We had a lot that all of a sudden showed up on our doorstep,” he said. “We had several hundred feet dropped off. We were glad to get it back, but nobody was throwing anyone under the bus.”

Still, another 500 to 1,000 feet of hose and brass fixtures remain outstanding, officials added.

On July 11, an officer following up on the June 21 theft asked Moresi about some fire hose he saw on Moresi’s Dam Road property, police outlined in a news release.

“Moresi admitted ... going into the fire zone and taking the hose, along with connectors,” police said. “She advised that she has a pump on her property and she was going to use the items for her personal use.”

Moresi was arrested on suspicion of theft. Police said they recovered 400 feet of Lake County hose, a connector and a nozzle from her property.

Fire Chief Sapeta said the loss of equipment continues to hurt the district, because fire equipment has been hard to acquire due to COVID-19-related supply shortages.

“Everyone is buying all there is,” he said. “When we’re out at a call, we have to rob from another truck or borrow from another agency.”

Moresi identified herself to Press Democrat photographer Kent Porter at the scene of the fire on Aug. 18, where she was photographed using a fire hose to spray water along a stand of trees next to an almost dry Cache Creek.

Sapeta said the pump Moresi was using wasn’t Lake County’s and officers were following up on the hose.

Jacqueline Snyder, chair of the fire protection district’s Board of Directors, was pointed in her comments and concerned about whether the hose was her district’s missing property. She said she would ask police to investigate based on the Press Democrat photos published Aug. 18 and 19.

“We’re a small rural district with small tax base,” she said. “We were able to handle it because we run a good budget. But it was an unanticipated expense, and we’d rather pay our firefighters more.”

Staff writer Colin Atagi contributed to this report.

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 707-521-5470 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @loriacarter.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy: