SANTA ROSA, Calif. - A warning at the morning briefing for firefighters on the front lines.
"We did get a report yesterday of there’s possibly some fake firefighters out there, wanting to do some looting," Sonoma County sheriff's Lt. Shawn Murphy told firefighters gathered at the fairgrounds in Santa Rosa.
As if there isn't enough to deal with already, authorities say criminals might be taking dvantage of a crisis to victimize residents, by pretending to be the good guys.
"I’m sure you guys don’t want that, right? You don’t want a couple of idiots to ruin your outstanding reputation," Murphy said. "So if you see them, please report them to us, check their credentials, let’s get those guys out of here.”
Real firefighters were incensed.
"For somebody to do that, that's pretty low," said Capt. Kevin Correira of the Quincy FIre Department.
Correira is part of a strike team from Plumas County helping out in the North Bay. He says he can't imagine someone masquerading as a firefighter to do harm.
TThe community and do our best to try to get rid of all this, you know, the fires and everything else," he said.
And the bad guys aren't just posing as firefighters .
In other emergencies, some have also pretended to be security guards to gain access to evacuated areas.
Fire evacuees at a Red Cross shelter in Santa Rosa say these kinds of criminals make them feel even more vulnerable.
"They're taking advantage, knowing that first responders, police, everyone, is so busy and (sigh) it's very disheartening," said Jennie Cormie of Santa Rosa.
Rich McAulay of Healdsburg said many people might assume that anyone in a firefighting uniform is legitimate.
"With all the chaos, it's just a natural reaction to do what he's asking you to do. You're looking at him for help," McAulay said.
Shaun Brewer, who was evacuated from her home in Healdsburg said, "That's the most terrible thing i've ever heard." She said he might ask for id and a badge before assuming she's talking with a real firefighter.
"Normally, I would trust a firefighter and security in a heartbeat. So anybody pretending to do that, that's just total fraud," Brewer said.