Saturday, September 23, 2006

Cops: Drunk Firefighter Steals Fire Truck.

Rockleigh is as quaint as it gets.

But Thursday night, someone got into the town's firehouse and stole a new engine truck.

Police said the thief was an off-duty firefighter with Ladder 50 in the Bronx and that he was drunk when he rolled up at a blaze in Closter.

"I believe he approached the crew at the scene and said 'I've got agua. Where do you want it?'" said Closter Fire Chief Thomas Reinecke, who was the commander in charge at the scene.

He said the off-duty firefighter, identified as Raymond Oprey, showed up in a t-shirt and a pair of jeans and insisted he was there to help out with the fire.

"As I questioned him a little further, his story continued to change and at that point I told him to stand by and I would get him an assignment," Reinecke said. "Then I waived to the police officers and had them respond."

Oprey was arrested at the scene.

Witnesses said the 33-year-old had no headlights on when he jumped, drove through the grass and almost ran over several people.

"Certainly, this morning, as you look back you can smile about it but it could have been a lot worse," said Chief Michael Malhame, who is with the Rockleigh Fire Department.

He happened to be at the fire scene when the bizarre events occurred.

Police said along the way Oprey even used the truck's radio to talk to firefighters at the scene and made some strange comments.

"It almost came across as if someone had commandeered a radio and was goofing around," Reinecke said.

Oprey lives in Palisades, N.Y., on the New Jersey border and just a few minutes away from the Rockleigh firehouse.

No one answered the door at his house.

"He's a really nice man and really helpful and the whole neighborhood likes him very much," said Koon Hui, Oprey's neighbor.

If found guilty, Oprey faces three to five years behind bars.

Because fire engines are easy to start -- most have push-button ignitions -- the Rockleigh Fire Department said it's reassessing its security.

Officials there believe Oprey got in through a back door at the firehouse.

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