July 11, 2008

Wire Theft Labeled Dangerous, Foolish

By Bill Byrd, The Times West Virginian, Fairmont

Jul. 11--FAIRMONT -- The theft of copper grounding wires from an Allegheny Energy substation in rural Marion County earlier this week is "extremely dangerous and extremely foolish," said an Allegheny spokesman.

"Unfortunately, we're seeing more and more of this kind of activity because of the high price of metals," said Allen T. Staggers, an Allegheny spokesman.

The electric power company's internal security group and State Police are investigating the theft of more than 600 feet of copper grounding wire from the Everson Substation, he said. The incident happened sometime between 2 p.m. Monday and 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Although the thief or thieves didn't cause any power outages, the possibility that thousands of residents could have lost their electric service makes it more than just a simple theft, he said.

"Anybody that breaks into a substation is doing something that is extremely dangerous and extremely foolish," he said Thursday.

The electric utility is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the offender or offenders.

The intruders could have been seriously injured, Staggers said.

They cut through the perimeter security fence around the substation. It is located along Coons Run Road in Everson, near the West Fork River in the southern part of the county.

The copper grounding wires for the substation building are buried underneath a layer of gravel. The grounding wires channel lightning strikes into the ground.

"It looks like a grid of wire," around the structure, Staggers said.

Besides pulling the grounding wires out of the ground and cutting them off from the building, the thieves also cut "the neutral wires on a transformer, causing it to trip off-line," he said.

The resulting damage to controls and relays in the station caused about $4,700 in damage.

The stolen copper wire is valued at about $2,300.

Staggers said any one with information about the theft should call the State Police at 367-2701 and ask for Corporal M.R. Camden, the investigating officer.

Last month, copper wiring thieves struck a remote relay tower for county's 911 emergency communications system twice.

The first theft of copper grounding wire occurred on June 16 when thieves cut a lock on a chain-link fence surrounding the tower. They then ripped up copper grounding wires for several small buildings at the base of the tower outside Idamay. They also stole the grounding wires for the tower itself.

When repairs were done, officials said another set of thieves returned and committed the same crime again on June 18. Two Idamay men were arrested and charged with that incident.

Police are still looking for the thieves in the June 16 theft.

Both thefts caused the 911 center to use a backup system to ensure that emergency calls from the center to fire departments and other first responders were getting through.

E-mail Bill Byrd at [email protected]


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