Members of the Auburn Fire Department are mourning one of their two brand-new $80,000 aid vehicles, which was totaled yesterday after a man stole it and crashed it into a power...

Share story

Members of the Auburn Fire Department are mourning one of their two brand-new $80,000 aid vehicles, which was totaled yesterday after a man stole it and crashed it into a power pole.

The driver, a 27-year-old Auburn man, was arrested for second-degree assault, first-degree theft and driving under the influence. He was being held at the Auburn Detention Facility.

Just before 5 a.m., Auburn police and a Fire Department aid crew were responding to a domestic-violence call in the 2800 block of Skyway Lane Southeast. As the fire crew began aiding the victim in the house, the domestic-violence suspect ran out to the medic unit, jumped in and drove off. He headed toward Highway 164, police said.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

When members of the aid crew came outside for a gurney to take the victim to the hospital, they found the aid car had vanished, said Jim Franklin, an Auburn Fire Department spokesman.

“They came out of the house and their jaws just hit the floor,” he said.

Franklin was unsure whether the keys had been left in the ignition, but said crews often leave emergency vehicles running while rendering aid, to provide light or to speed the process of transporting a patient to a hospital.

Police who had responded to the domestic-violence call radioed for another medic unit to take the victim to the hospital.

Meanwhile, the man who had absconded with the emergency vehicle didn’t get far. He drove about three miles east along Highway 164 before he lost control just west of Southeast 392nd Street, police said. He crashed into a power pole, downed a couple of power lines, plowed through a fence and flipped the vehicle on its side, coming to rest in a yard.

The man was treated by an aid crew at the scene for minor injuries.

“The airbags probably saved his life,” Franklin said. “He’s lucky to be alive.”

The man was taken to a hospital and was arrested shortly after being released.

The aid vehicle he totaled was one of two the department had just finished painting and equipping, Franklin said. It had been in service for only two days, he said.

Traffic was closed for several hours along Highway 164 as State Patrol officers and Auburn police cleared the accident and Puget Sound Energy crews worked to restore power to about 730 homes.

Utility crews were able to restore power to most customers by about 8 a.m. A few people who lived near the crash scene had their power fixed by yesterday afternoon, said Puget Sound Energy spokesman Tim Bader.

Franklin said it’s unusual for a person to attempt to steal an emergency vehicle. He could remember only one other such attempt — about 17 years ago, when someone unsuccessfully tried to steal a fire chief’s rig.

The cause of yesterday’s crash was still under investigation. But Franklin suggested alcohol, drugs and “sheer stupidity” could have been factors.

Jessica Blanchard: 206-464-3896 or jblanchard@seattletimes.com