TOWN OF VERNON (WITI) -- He stands six feet tall and lets people know they can prevent forest fires. But sadly, Smokey Bear couldn't prevent being stolen from his perch in front of the Town of Vernon Fire Station #2. Now, firefighters in the Town of Vernon are on a rescue mission to save one of their own.
"It takes a lot of man hours to put it together. The price of the bear is about $800," Jason Kubiszewski with the Vernon Fire Department said.
Police say someone damaged and stole part of the fire prevention sign that's posted in front of the fire station between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. on Sunday, February 1st. Officials say the thieves cut the sign framing multiple times with a chainsaw to steal the "Smokey Bear" image that was secured to the frame. This vandalism resulted in extensive damage to the frame and part of the remaining metal parts of the sign.
Andrew Stolldorf is used to being first on the scene of an emergency -- not a case involving vandalism.
"We spent the time building it, and put it together, and now it's cut apart," Stolldorf said.
"You can definitely tell where they took pieces out of the wood where the brackets were," Kubiszewski said.
The Smokey Bear sign is described as being six feet tall, weighing between 35 and 40 pounds, made of reflective aluminum.
Firefighters thought the odds of a crime like this in the Town of Vernon were about as low as a wildfire this time of year. They can only speculate how Smokey was taken -- but they have a prediction as to where he'll end up.
"It appears they backed up a pickup truck and used some chainsaws. We're thinking it'll be on Facebook -- showing off to their friends," Kubiszewski said.
Now it's up to you to help police catch those responsible.
"Just trying to get our sign back," Stolldorf said.
"We ask you to look out for it and stop vandalizing fire department, town property," Kubiszewski said.
The Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the incident and the Vernon Fire Department is asking citizens of the community to be aware of the theft and report any suspicious activity, vehicles, or people that you may have seen in the area of the station during the early morning on Sunday. They're also asking the community to be on the lookout for the bear sign and report any sighting to the Waukesha County Sheriff.
Members of the Vernon Fire Department are offering a reward for any information that leads to the arrest and recovery of the sign. Any person who has information is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Department or their local law enforcement agency.
In all, the damage is estimated at $1,000.