“GUTTED” lifesaving volunteers with a Wyre Forest land and river rescue service are determined to get back to full strength after their base was ransacked by callous vandals.
Wyre Forest Severn Area Rescue Association’s (SARA) rescue station at the former Lea Castle Hospital site, Cookley, was attacked on Monday evening and at least £4,000 of damage was caused after garages and storage units were broken into.
During the incident, two of the charity’s rescue Land Rovers were damaged, with bonnets ripped off and windows smashed. Intruders broke into one of the two boatsheds, taking a compressor and two full fuel tanks, a tool box and tools. It is believed they attempted to enter the other boatshed and the main building but failed.
SARA’s Wyre Forest branch had already been desperately looking for extra funds, volunteers and a new, permanent rescue station following a busy start to 2014, which saw near-record flooding in the district. The vital service is funded entirely by donations from the public and does not receive any Government or council money.
Staff say the need for volunteers is now more important than ever and have appealed to anyone with information about the incident to contact police.
Station officer Steve Bradley said: “I am just absolutely gutted. The amount of time and effort we put into it, not just the crew but the people of Wyre Forest fundraising as well, just to see mindless vandalism and the theft of stuff that is not going to be of any use to them.
“It has put two vehicles off the road and one boat out – it has reduced the number of call-outs we can attend significantly.”
He said he hoped to get the two damaged vehicles back on the road by the end of this week and new fuel tanks for the boats would be purchased as soon as possible but admitted volunteers were hoping for a “quiet week” while the charity recovered.
Mr Bradley added: “I would like the people who did this to sit back and think what they have done. We are all volunteers and we all rely on donations – they may have even put some money in the bucket themselves.
“It is not our money or the Government or council – it is the public of Wyre Forest they are taking from and it is taking us off the road.”
Wyre Forest SARA is one of Kidderminster Mayor John Campion’s mayoral charities. Mr Campion said: “This unfortunate incident is taking money given by the community. I have enjoyed working with SARA and I would prefer to be funding new bits of kit and volunteer training, not replacing damaged equipment.”
Cally Carter, SARA’s head of support services, who has recently appealed for more volunteers through The Shuttle, added: “I really just do not understand it. We are doing a job to save people and we need people to support us. It is hard enough work as it is to fund it and keep it going.
“How would they feel if it was them or their friends or family who needed us and we could not go and help them because of this?”
A West Mercia Police spokesman confirmed the incident had been reported to officers and said the full extent of the damage and theft was still being determined.
SARA crews typically attend incidents where boats or people are in difficulty and carry out searches for missing people, animal rescues and flood relief.
For more information about volunteering, call Ms Carter on 01562 850155 or email SARA.WFRS.Supporters@sara-rescue.org.uk.
Anyone with information about the incident should call police on 101, quoting 0603-S-070414.