Thieves stole $7,000 in fireworks late Saturday night from a storage container behind the Northgate Community Church with profits going to pay for a leaky roof on the church building on Northgate Drive near the north-south bike path.
The theft was discovered by the church pastor at 10 a.m. Sunday morning with the suspected use of a crowbar on the door of the unit. The steel boxed cover that protects the lock on the door was pried open with a suspected crowbar and then the lock was reportedly cut with a bolt cutter.
Church members are hoping to recoup some of their losses with last minute sales this morning from people attending the Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast at 7 and the July Fourth Parade on North Main Street set for 10 a.m.
The church roof had been leaking for the past year and a half, according to one church member, who said they had used buckets to catch the rain water.
Co-chair of the fireworks sales, Melissa Mullin, noted that a Manteca woman came forward to say she had witnessed the theft and saw an individual carrying boxes down the bike path to the west of the church near where the stand was located. She quoted her as saying she followed the suspect and saw fireworks stored in a garage and was told they had gotten them for free by a woman resident.
Manteca police followed up on the tip from Pastor Miles Larson and found the fireworks at a home but couldn’t confirm that they had been taken from the church storage unit. The boxes of fireworks had been taken out of their cardboard shipping boxes that had the name of the church and its address printed on the outside and discarded on church property.
Pastor Larson had found a couple boxes of the fireworks on the bike path, he said.
A Manteca fire marshal followed up on the incident Monday afternoon looking for security cameras in the neighborhood that might have caught the thieves in the act carrying off the explosives that could cause a fire in the wrong hands.
People learning of the theft had been stopping by the stand and leaving $10 bill donations and taking no fireworks, saying they just wanted to help in the loss, Mullins said.
The fireworks committee was able to restock their selections of fireworks Monday morning, adding that the loss was not insured except for fire. The church is looking into its insurance policy to see if their coverage included fireworks thefts, noting it didn’t look promising.
The church had just bought a new moving dolly last week for the sale, Mullins noted, a dolly that was used by the thieves to haul the fireworks down the street and suspected into a residential community.
The Northgate Church fireworks committee has opened a Gofundme.com account where they are asking for donations from the public in an attempt to survive their losses. To reach the site go to www.gofundme.com and enter Daniel Machado.
“We hope somewhere in God’s plan there is a purpose for this. The support from a loving community has been great. We will be open at 7:30 a.m. until 11 p.m. July Fourth.” Mullins said.
To contact Glenn Kahl, email firstname.lastname@example.org.