By Russ and Tiña De Maris
It was blow enough that the huge California wildfire dubbed the Camp Fire engulfed the town of Paradise, killing 86 people and wiping out close to 14,000 homes. Now come a couple of knuckleheads who have earned their “Dumb Crook” designation in connection with the aftermath of the disaster.
Just before 7:00 in the morning on December 28, a resident of a mobile home park in Redding, California, woke up to the sound of scraping metal. His ears led his eyes to witness a Chevy SUV towing – evidently with some difficulty – a travel trailer out of the park. Turns out the trailer was a brand-new Forest River, put there by FEMA to help house victims of the Camp Fire. Police were called, and it didn’t take long to find that another FEMA trailer had also been purloined from the same park.
Not long after, reports arrived that a white SUV had been spotted northeast of the park on Highway 44 in the vicinity of Palo Cedro, curiously enough, towing a travel trailer. A California Highway Patrol chopper pilot spotted it, followed it, and directed police officers on up the road to a home near Millville. When Redding police and CHP officers arrived, they chatted up one Wayne J. Bergman, a 58-year-old who admitted, yep, he’d taken that shiny Forest River trailer home with him. Needless to say, Wayne got a free ride in a patrol car, as did two other folks at the house who, while having nothing to do with the trailer theft, did happen to have outstanding arrest warrants.
Not long after, CHP air patrollers also spotted that other missing travel trailer, this one in Bella Vista, farther northeast of Redding. Police officers responded to a house on (appropriately enough) Albatross Way. The home’s owner said the trailer had somehow shown up at his place earlier that day. He evidently pointed the finger of possibility at his brother, one Wayne Bergman. While visiting with the homeowner, the police spotted what they described as a “suspicious” pickup truck turn up near the residence. Their gut intuition suggested the driver might be there to fetch the stolen travel trailer, so they stopped the driver for a chat. Turns out the driver (not the brother of the homeowner) was not only on probation, the pickup he was driving had been reported stolen. They eventually caught up with Wayne Bergman, who was booked along with all these other folks; Bergman charged with initial possession of a stolen vehicle – the second travel trailer.
FEMA now has its trailers back, and at least five characters are on the shaded side of the bars of the local lockup.