Andy Simek | Democrat
ONE ACT OF vandalism destroyed eight years of restoration to this 1955 Ford F-800 firetruck owned by the Smallwood/Mongaup Valley FD.
Vandals Strike Antique Fire Truck
By Andy Simek
SMALLWOOD August 17, 2007 The damage may be irreparable, or it just may be very, very expensive.
“It really makes me sick,” said John Panos about the smashed-in windshield of the 1955 Ford F-800 model firetruck he found on the morning of August 5.
Panos is the Lieutenant of the Smallwood-Mongaup Valley Fire Department (SMVFD), and this grim discovery has set his company back in time, effort, morale and money.
The restoration of the classic firetruck has been a kind of pet project for the SMVFD for the past eight years, according to Panos, and thousands of dollars have already been put into bringing it back to its former glory.
“It was a custom windshield; we’re not even sure if we can get a new one now,” Panos said.
On the evening of Saturday August 4, at around 2:30 am, one or more individuals took a piece of a nearby rock wall and smashed the windshield in.
The vandals also tipped over the bench at their small memorial and rearranged the letters on their message board, said Ron Miller, the SMVFD chaplin and restoration committee president.
“The letters are the first thing we noticed and we thought, ‘No big deal.’ But then we saw the truck,” Miller said.
What really shocked members of the fire department is not the monetary damage but the seemingly random nature of the vandalism.
Panos said, “I really wish I knew why these people did this. This type of senseless destruction doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s a sick thing to do.”
SMVFD volunteers are not letting their shock slow them down, however.
“The police are involved,” Panos said.
If the vandals are caught by the police, the fire department will file the highest charges available by law, which could mean time spent doing community service, time in juvenile hall or if the vandals are old enough a prison term.
Panos said, “The police are following several leads that they got with the help of some neighbors.”
He added that “the community has been really great in trying to help us out, and we’re really thankful to them.”
The neighbors said they had heard a group of kids making noise on that evening, but nobody called the police.
The SMVFD is offering a reward to anyone who can offer information that will lead to the arrest of the vandals.
Panos added to this that if the vandals themselves were to come forward, no criminal charges would be filed against them.
If you have any information regarding this incident, call Panos at 583-5847 or the Sheriff’s Department at 794-7100.