Nov. 13, 2012
Misty Volaski, email@example.com
Monday morning, an Ojai Unified School District mechanic made an unwelcome discovery: the bus yard fuel tank was empty.
Approximately 2,300 gallons of diesel fuel had been stolen from the facility’s bulk storage tank overnight.
“We believe they did this by siphoning through the vent on top of the tank,” said OUSD superintendent Hank Bangser.
Because about 100 additional gallons of fuel had been spilled, an environmental cleanup firm was called. As a precaution, the nearby Ojai Skate Park was temporarily closed.
The cleanup was completed Tuesday, Bangser said. Bus schedules were not interrupted, nor were classes at the nearby Chaparral High School.
According to Captain Don Aguilar, media relations officer with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, the theft and spill occurred Sunday morning between 5 and 5:45 a.m. “Two vehicles were seen leaving the scene around that time,” Aguilar said. Witnesses said one vehicle was a silver, slightly lifted Chevy truck. The other was a flatbed, stakeside truck with a plastic storage container on the back and dual wheels in the rear.
Ventura County Sheriff’s Detective Mike Harris said it is unlikely that this was an inside job. “Normally this kind of thing is not their first foray into it (fuel theft),” Harris said. “Usually they’ve attempted this before and have stepped up to a larger scale.”
Asked whether there were any similar crimes committed in the area in recent months, Harris said that detectives are working with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department crime analysis team to compile this information, and to create a list of possible suspects. He added that in October, 50 to 60 gallons of fuel were stolen from the Mosler Rock Quarry on Maricopa Highway.
“Sometimes we see random thefts of gas from vehicles,” Harris said, “but not normally from storage yards or on this scale.”
The already cash-strapped school district is “very fortunate to have excellent insurance,” Bangser said, which limited its liability for the entire incident to $3,000. Had the District been forced to pay to replace the fuel, that cost alone would be almost $8,000, Bangser said.
“The $3,000 is our total out-of-pocket cost including the fuel, clean-up and anything else.”
While the OUSD does have video surveillance in the area, “It points to the buses; nothing showed on the video,” Bangser said. OUSD officials are working on a plan to safeguard against future thefts, although details were unavailable as of press time.
As of late Thursday morning, Bangser said, the Ojai Skate Park had been reopened, after the Ventura County Environmental Service Division cleared the soil samples of any contaminants.
Anyone with information on the theft can call the Ojai Police Station at 646-1414.