'Two steps forward, one step back': Oil stolen from volunteer fire department

After a lucky break in November, the Smiths Cove fire department is now facing another financial hardship.

The volunteer department, which won $5,000 in a photo contest, has had $2,000 worth of furnace oil stolen over the last few weeks.

The department located about 10 minutes east of Digby, N.S., switched oil providers in late October.

Fire chief Josh Snyder said a few weeks into their filling season, one of the oil delivery drivers mentioned how quickly they seemed to be going through oil, despite warm weather.

"By the time we received the statements of how much oil was put in and when it was put in, we realized we definitely had a problem," Snyder said.

"My exact thought was, 'Holy smokes, we can't catch a break. It's two steps forward, one step back.'"

No lead on thieves

Snyder said he doesn't know who has been stealing the oil.

"We have not gone to the police yet. We are hoping some Good Samaritans will step forward and that we can just resolve this without taking it to the police," he said.

"But definitely going to the police is not out of the question if somebody were to break off our locks or cut our oil lines."

Snyder said along with installing a lock, the department has also purchased security cameras and plans to put signs around the oil tank — taking another toll on the finances.

The $5,000 windfall came late in 2019.

The Reserve Mines Fire Department in Cape Breton was on its way to winning the contest, but decided to step down and give the money to the second-place department.

Snyder said winning that money was a huge deal.

"So despite the oil issue, it definitely still is a happy time around the fire department," he said.

"We'll have to work harder at our fundraising. But we have been fortunate enough that a GoFundMe has been started and so far $200 has been brought forward in that."

He said the oil thefts have impacted community groups who rely on the building, such as the Digby Area Lions Club and the youth group from Smiths Cove Baptist Church.

"It is frustrating, definitely frustrating. But again, we have a good group of folks and with the locks in place we are just going to hold our head up high and move forward," Snyder said.

"And hopefully whoever really needed the oil, we hope it helped them out. But I hope they realize that it also impedes us."

Snyder said he wants to warn other fire departments and volunteer organizations to take measures to protect themselves from this kind of theft.

"We thought it wouldn't happen to us and it definitely did."

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