While Jeff Prouty was out helping others during last week’s ice storm, others were helping themselves to valuables inside his Martinez home.
The Columbia County Fire Rescue employee returned to his Old Evans Road home after a 24-hour shift on Feb. 13 – his birthday – to find his house completely ransacked.
Prouty, 40, called his job as a firefighter his “calling,” and said he had worked all day and night to help clear debris from Columbia County roadways caused by the storm, even responding to some medical calls for some of the county’s stranded residents.
In all, the department handled more than 360 calls for service Feb. 12, Prouty said.
After parking his truck in his driveway, he walked around back to check for storm damage. When Prouty rounded the corner, he found his rear sliding glass door wide open and knew something was wrong.
“It was clear that somebody had been here,” he said. “Things were thrown about. The house was basically ransacked. I was definitely shocked.”
Prouty immediately checked his bedroom, where most of his gun collection was stored, and found his closet completely destroyed.
His gun cabinet was stripped of its contents – mostly firearms that had been passed down through the family. Among the guns stolen was his Mossberg 835 Tactical Turkey shotgun he had spent years saving money to buy.
In shock, Prouty called 911, but was unable to tell the operator his address.
“It took me a few minutes to get my bearings,” he said.
After gathering himself, Prouty was able to fill out a report with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, but quit listing the items stolen after he reached the bottom of the third page.
“I stopped counting at $8,000,” Prouty said.
Gone was a 50-inch television and a Playstation 4 that Prouty had bought as a Christmas present for his 13-year-old son, Gage, who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome.
The burglars entered through Gage’s bedroom window.
“I’m just thankful that he was not here at the time,” Prouty said.
His sister-in-law, Jocelyn Prouty, said she is amazed at the support her brother-in-law has received since the break-in.
The family created a page on GoFundMe.com to help offset the cost of replacing the stolen items. As of Friday evening, it had raised more than $6,000 of its $10,000 goal.
“Some of the comments (on the Web site) are just wonderful, and they’re people who don’t even know Jeff,” she said. “Going through this, we kind of see how great of a community we have here. I just hope the people that stole from him can see that.”
Though Jeff Prouty said he still feels somewhat violated by the burglary, he doesn’t dwell on it.
“The main things that I lost were possessions that took a long time to achieve,” Prouty said. “But at the end of the day, we’re OK. I still have a job and I can still provide.”
Prouty’s attitude is admirable considering the cirucmstances, Jocelyn Prouty said.
“He seems to be more at peace with it than I am,” she said. “I think it says something about the guy he is.”