Man Accused of Stealing Firefighter’s Wallet During CA Fire

Civilian volunteer puts water on fire
In this Aug. 21, 2020, file photo, Jesse Katz joins the firefighting effort as a civilian volunteer battling the CZU Lightning Complex Fire in Bonny Doon, Calif. With California fire crews strapped for resources as hundreds of lightning-sparked fires broke out in one night, crews of organized residents have worked to put out spot fires themselves in a massive complex of blazes along the central coast, banding together to sneak behind evacuation lines and keep properties safe. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) — A man has been arrested for allegedly stealing the wallet of a firefighter who was helping battle a blaze in the Santa Cruz mountains, authorities said Thursday.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart said deputies arrested Brian Johnson, of Live Oak, after he confessed to stealing the wallet and buying $1,400 in gift cards and purchasing many other items with the firefighter’s credit cards.

Johnson, who was arrested Wednesday, also wrote a letter of apology to the firefighter with the California Department of Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, Hart said.

“This happened to a man who came to the community to help us,” Hart said. “It’s just not right and I’m really going to advocate to hold this guy accountable.”

Johnson allegedly entered a fire engine outside the Bonny Doon Fire Station Friday night or Saturday morning and stole the firefighter’s wallet and other things. He faces credit card theft, grand theft, possession of stolen property, forgery and probation violation charges, Hart said.

Hart said Johnson, 37, was on parole in a different county but didn’t give details. It wasn’t immediately clear if Johnson has an attorney who can speak on his behalf.

A tip from a community member led investigators to Johnson’s house where they conducted a probation search and found some of the merchandise purchased with the stolen credit cards and clothing worn by a masked man caught on surveillance video using the credit cards at a gas station, he said.

All charges were reversed by the firefighter’s bank and people from around the country volunteered to pay the firefighter’s debts, Hart said.

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