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Firefighters Urged To Make Certain Vehicles Are Secured

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WAYNE COUNTY — Firefighters in New York have worked to the point of exhaustion after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, but here at home, volunteer firefighters are also pulling extra duty.

The FBI is asking them to keep an eye on rescue vehicles that could be stolen and used by terrorists.

The bureau said that someone has already tried to steal an emergency vehicle in New York.

Before last week's attack, there was a pretty good chance you could have driven by the Pinewood Fire Department, north of Goldsboro, and seen the garage doors open. No more, not now. Rural fire departments are on alert to keep their trucks and their facilities secure.

As Americans, we trust the volunteers and professionals who handle emergencies.

"Most people see a police car or fire truck and you see someone who is a helping hand," Capt. Justin Ahrens of the Pinewood Fire Deparment said.

That is why the FBI wants rural emergency crews, especially those near military bases, to be careful. Terrorists could use emergency vehicles as weapons. The Pinewood Fire Department, just up the street from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, is already increasing security.

"The keys have been taken out of the ignitions. All our trucks are key operated. They have been taken out of the ignitions and put in a secure place where the engineers and lead firefighters know the wherabouts of the keys," Assistant Chief Steven Powers said.

Down Highway 70 at the Elroy Fire Department, volunteers are driving by more often to be sure the trucks are accounted for.

"We're keeping a little better check on it, plus the sheriff's department in Wayne County has several firefighters that are deputy sheriffs. That sort of cover the rest of the county. We keep a good check on it, regardless of the situation and we'll keep an even better check on it now," Chief Steve Mozingo of the Elroy Fire Department said.

That means more work for the firefighters, but they acknowledge that higher security is a necessary evil for now.

Both the Pinewood and Elroy fire departments also use keypad combinations to get access to the buildings.