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Volunteer firefighter robbed of fire pack while he slept after day on the Walbridge

A Petaluma man, exhausted from a day of performing mop-up on the Walbridge wildfire, was robbed of equipment and personal items stored in a backpack leaning against his pickup, where he slept.

The items stolen Thursday night while Adam Sawicky was sleeping in a fenced parking lot off Old Redwood Highway in Windsor included a fire pack and emergency shelter, as well as his childhood pocket knife and a custom handmade wallet that had been a groomsman’s gift.

“I’ve been chasing around the cards that went missing, and getting a new license,” Sawicky said Friday. “At least I’m safe and sound.”

Sawicky, 30, studied fire ecology as a forestry and natural resources major at UC Berkeley. He is part of a 40-member volunteer brigade that has supported firefighters in the 86-square-mile burn zone in west Sonoma County through the Good Fire Alliance, a 2-year-old association of nonprofit and community members trained in basic wildland firefighting mainly to conduct prescribed burns.

Sawicky and compatriots from all walks of life have been rotating through three-day shifts for the past two weeks patrolling the fire line, digging out burning stumps and dousing hot spots and putting fires.

Their work included assignments at Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve, where they helped protect majestic redwood trees, and at The Cedars, a geologically unique, otherworldly area at the headwaters to Austin Creek that has proved among the fire’s most stubborn sectors.

At night, they sleep at one of two homes of The Center for Social and Environmental Stewardship in Windsor, at Old Redwood Highway and Jesse Ray Place, where Sawicky had just been crashing in the bed of his pickup.

On Thursday, he thought he heard an opossum or raccoon on the wire fence, but didn’t really rouse himself, not worrying too much about it.

When he woke up a few minutes later, he discovered someone had come in off the alley and pulled out pins to fold the fence down and climb over, said Che Casul, chief executive office of the nonprofit.

Sawicky’s helmet and water bottle were found around the corner, Casul said.

But the fire pack and emergency shelter, worth $725 and owned by Fire Forward, a program of Audubon Canyon Ranch, a lead partner in the alliance, are gone, said crew leader Sasha Berleman.

Irreplaceable is the handcrafted wallet Sawicky received at a friend’s wedding in 2018 that held a field notebook “that’s been with me everywhere I go.”

Also gone is a Swiss Army knife his mother gave him when he was 12, a headlamp, a compass, all the assorted cards one carries and about $50.

“Personally, I’m more worried about replacing the backpack and the fire shelter, just because I was borrowing those items,” Sawicky said. “The wallet can be, hopefully ... I can’t get the exact same one but, if I contact my friend Kevin, hopefully we can put something together.”

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

Mary Callahan

Environment and Climate Change, The Press Democrat

I am in awe of the breathtaking nature here in Sonoma County and am so grateful to live in this spectacular region we call home. I am amazed, too, by the expertise in our community and by the commitment to protecting the land, its waterways, its wildlife and its residents. My goal is to improve understanding of the issues, to find hope and to help all of us navigate the future of our environment. 

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