HOMEWOOD ACRES, Ill. (CBS) — Vandals destroyed the Homewood Acres volunteer firehouse over Memorial Day weekend – and the break-in happened in broad daylight.
The discovery was made days later, and the vandals were kids caught on camera.
As CBS 2’s Marissa Perlman reports, the firehouse at 3860 183rd St. in the unincorporated community of Homewood Acres was left looking like a tornado had ripped through it. Every single one of the 11 rooms in the firehouse was a disaster area.
Cameras caught four kids making a mess of the place the members of the volunteer fire department call their second home.
“We’re violated,” said Homewood Acres Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bryan Rouson.
Chief Rouson walked through the wreckage of the firehouse Tuesday. He has spent 46 years working there.
“We didn’t know what to think,” Rouson said. “We were speechless.”
he showed us what was left of where his team of 12 eats.
“Al the kitchen cabinets have been ripped off; the refrigerator was tipped over; the stove was pulled out and was leaking gas,” Rouson said.
The rooms where the team sleeps and trains were likewise left in tatters with furniture tipped over and strewn everywhere.
“I think we’d be better off if they had burned it to the ground,” Rouson said.
Surveillance video captured the break-in early Saturday morning. First, two kids are seen throwing something into the firehouse window.
They then use a stolen fire ladder to climb inside. Two other kids join them afterward.
Hammers in hand, the kids go room to room – leaving nary a space untouched.
They figured out they were on security camera – and went for the camera too.
“In the video, you can tell – they look right at it,” Rouson said.
The Cook County Sheriff’s office says the kids are between 9 and 14 years old. Meanwhile, Chief Rouson has not seen the full video yet. He doesn’t want to – it’s too hard to look at.
Others were likewise traumatized upon seeing the condition of their second home for the first time.
“It just makes me want to cry,” a Homewood Acres firefighter said. “This is where we live. This is where we work. This is insane.”
The toughest blow was the firehouse flag, carrying the motto, “Trained in tradition… paid in pride.”
It was ripped down, and is now covered with dirt.
“We put a lot of time in here – blood, sweat, and tears – all to make the community better,” Rouson said, “and whether they’re from the community or elsewhere, they took that away from us.”
The kids took about $160 in cash and some snacks, and nothing else. Btu they did at least $100,000 worth of damage at the firehouse.
The Cook County Sheriff’s office is investigating using the surveillance video as well as fingerprints to try to catch those responsible.
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe has been set up in hopes of rebuilding the fire station.