POULSBO – A Poulsbo Fire Department engine enroute to a fire punctured one of its tires early Jan. 18 after driving over a spiked trap left in the roadway on Highway 305 near George Lane.
Engine 71 struck a device known as a caltrop while responding to a call on Bainbridge Island. Caltrops are a weapon made of sharp spikes arranged in such a manner that one or more spikes are always pointing upward. The spikes have been used historically to target everything from human feet to horse hooves and vehicle tires. Now it appears someone has been using them to indiscriminately target local drivers.
Poulsbo Fire Deputy Chief Bruce Peterson said replacing the punctured tire wasn’t cheap.
“To replace the tire was over $1,300,” Peterson said. “It was one of our new fire trucks too, so the tire was darn near brand new on it. It effectively ruined the tire.”
The financial cost paled in comparison to the possible cost to human life if the truck had experienced a blowout from hitting the spike.
“A blowout on a truck like that could be catastrophic. It could lose control,” Peterson said. “Anything that hits one of these spikes could cause them to lose control and obviously cause an accident.”
Fortunately, the tire was punctured in such a way that the air escaped very slowly.”
Peterson said puncturing a tire to any emergency response vehicle could very well prevent the responders from making it to the scene on time, thereby risking more lives than just those inside the vehicle.
“I honestly couldn’t get in somebody’s mind why they would do this, put people in this much danger,” Peterson said.
The puncturing of the fire truck’s tire was not the first time caltrops have been used to randomly target North Kitsap drivers.
Abby Rose, a Kingston resident, found several of the spikes hidden in the gravel parking lot at a cemetery near Kingston High School. Unfortunately, Rose said, she hadn’t found them before a student on his way to school drove over one, puncturing his tire.
Deputy Scott Wilson of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office said drivers should be on the lookout for the spikes.
“If they see somebody dumping them, obviously get as much information: time, date, location, a description of the vehicle, definitely a license plate number,” Wilson said.
Wilson said drivers should only attempt to clear the roadway of the spikes if the road is clear of traffic and it’s safe to pull over.
“Only in a safe environment should they consider stopping and removing them, and calling 911 and hooking up with a deputy to turn them in,” he said. “Personal safety and driver safety is absolutely paramount, same thing with trying to maneuver around them.”
Wilson also said that whoever is responsible for leaving the spikes could potentially face serious legal repercussions.
“Right off the bat, I’m thinking malicious mischief,” Wilson said. “[But] if that malicious mischief causes damage which causes a car to crash and injure somebody, now we’re talking about a whole different thing. We’re talking about participating in an act that could result in an assault charge, possibly a homicide charge.”
— Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter with Kitsap News Group. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.