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Theives Stealing Copper from Electrical Equipment

February 15, 2011 Leave a comment

A potentially deadly gas leak at a home on Glen Park Ave. is traced back to a series of break-and-enters in 13 Division. The thieves’ target? Copper pipes.

Brass and copper plumbing supplies valued at $600,000 are stolen from a business near Dixon Rd. and Highway 27. Eavestroughs made of copper are no sooner installed than they are swiped from homes.

The metal is by no means easy to steal, but that isn’t stopping thieves who recognize its rising value. With copper closing at a record US$4.63/lb. Monday, Toronto Police are on alert that there could be an increase in daring — and dangerous — robberies.

“People are stealing copper for the value of it. It is a concern,” said Toronto Police Const. Tony Vella. “We’ve had a few occurrences — one that could have been deadly.”

Toronto Police recently issued a warning after a “disproportionate number” of break-ins in Glen Park in northwest Toronto. After the copper pipes were cut in a vacant luxury home, Enbridge measured gas levels of more than 40 per cent inside. They caught the leak before it caused an explosion.

Thieves are so brazen that they will even steal copper from live transformer stations. Hydro One loses about $1 million a year from stolen copper, said Gregory Taylor, head of copper theft prevention.

In Feb. 2009, a 38-year-old Windsor man was electrocuted to death trying to steal copper from a Hydro One station.

The Bermondsey transformer station in Scarborough has been stripped of copper three times in the past five years — costing Hydro One $24,000 each time, Taylor said.

When thieves disrupt the copper grounding wires at transformer stations, they not only put their own lives in danger but also those of Hydro One workers who might not realize the station has been tampered with, Taylor added.

“It’s the public safety aspect of this that really concerns us,” Taylor said.

Since Taylor was assigned to copper theft in 2008, Hydro One has identified 45 transformer stations most targeted for break-ins, beefed up patrols and installed barbed-wire fences.

Meanwhile, contractors who work with copper said theft of the pricey metal is an ongoing problem.

Scraps of copper were stolen from the construction site at Old City Hall during the five-year restoration project, said Cameron Forbes, vice president of the contracting firm Heather & Little Limited.

Contractors are sometimes hired specifically to replace stolen copper, said Tom Shreeve, a manager at the Toronto-based Semple Gooder Roofing Corporation.

“We’ve undertaken repairs to replace copper that’s gone missing on a number of different types of buildings,” Shreeve said.

Triple M Metal in Scarborough, for one, pays up to $3.92/lb. for copper scraps. Scrapyards that buy and sell copper can also fall victim to thieves, said Len Shaw, executive director of the Canadian Association of Recycling Industries (CARI).

“You’ve got piles of it sitting in your yard. Literally, somebody could jump over the fence, throw it into his pickup truck, drive it into the scrap yard the next day and sell it back to the guy and he wouldn’t know,” Shaw said. “We’re very concerned about this.”

CARI helped develop a website where the North American scrap recycling industry can post reports of stolen materials. But Shaw admits there are challenges to tracking stolen copper.

“One piece of copper tubing is the same as another piece of copper tubing,” he said. “There is no way, unless it’s specifically marked, to determine where that piece of material came from. … Quite often material is stolen and then it’s deformed into pieces, squashed and things like that, so it doesn’t even look like what it was to begin with.”

Story via TheStar.com

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Transformer Explosion Leads to 3 Deaths in CA

January 14, 2011 Leave a comment

UPDATED INFORMATION  – A 17-year-old girl witnessed part of the electrocution of three family members, killed Friday morning by a fallen power line in their San Bernardino backyard, a fire captain said.

The girl told investigators that her stepfather, Steven Vego, 44, went to the backyard to inspect some small fires caused by the downed line and fanned by high winds, while her mother, Sharon Vego, 43, went to the frontyard to try to put out a possible fire there, officials said.

Investigators said they believe that Sharon Vego then heard a loud explosion from behind the house and hurried to the backyard, where she found her husband and son. They believe she was electrocuted as she tried to help them.

Firefighters found Sharon Vego on top of her son, Jonathan Cole, 21, and her husband lying nearby. The victims were pronounced dead at the scene.

Firefighters had to wait about 15 minutes for Southern California Edison crews to arrive and cut power to the fallen line before they could reach the victims, said San Bernardino city Fire Dept. Capt. Mike Bilheimer.

The 17-year-old girl and her 10-year-old brother were in the house, and the girl, who saw part of the accident, called 911 about 5:46 a.m., Bilheimer said.

The Fire Department received several calls early Friday morning from residents in the 5400 block of Acacia Avenue reporting downed power lines, fires and power outages.

San Bernardino Police Lt. Jarrod Burguan said winds were gusting up to 40 mph in the area Thursday night, and investigators strongly believe that the winds caused the fallen line.

Southern California Edison was leading the investigation. About 200 homes in the neighborhood were still without power Friday morning

San Bernadino, CA – A transformer explosion during high winds preceded this morning’s electrocution of three people in the backyard of their San Bernardino home.

“They heard the explosion, and they went out to look,” said Battalion Chief Paul Drasil. “There was a small fire in the front yard and a small fire in the backyard.”

Fire crews were summoned at 5:47 a.m. to the beige single-story stucco home along the 5400 block of Acacia Avenue in the Northpark section of San Bernardino. First responders were told to expect a possible electrocution with power lines down.

A family of five lives in the home, Drasil said. Two were unharmed.

The explosion knocked out power to 2,700 customers, according to initial reports.

There was also damage at a house two doors away.

“One (power) line that broke fell into the pool,” said resident Janet Vilchis. “It made a big old explosion, and it ruptured one of the water lines.

“Water was coming from underneath the house.”

Names of the dead have not been released. San Bernardino police Sgt. John Diaz said the coroner has been notified.

Story via Richard Brooks pe.com

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Man in Bahamas Killed in Electrical Shock Accident

October 25, 2010 Leave a comment

FREEPORT, BAHAMAS – The man who received an electrical shock on Thursday night died on Saturday while in the hospital.

According to police reports, the 20-year-old resident of Freeport was with a group of persons who entered an abandoned building on Taino Beach sometime after 8:00 p.m. on Thursday.

The man came into contact with a live transformer, which resulted in him receiving an electric shock that rendered him unconscious and caused severe burns about his body.

He was taken by ambulance to the Rand Memorial Hospital where he was treated and detained for further observation.

Police say an autopsy is expected to be performed sometime this week to determine the exact cause of his death.

Investigations are continuing by officers from the Central Detective Unit.

Meanwhile, the police are advising persons coming into contact with any electrical wires or equipment to avoid them for their own safety or to contact the Grand Bahama Power Company if a threat to the public is perceived.

Story via The Freeport News

Utility Worker Electrocuted in ND While Working on Transformer

October 23, 2010 Leave a comment

FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA — A utility worker has been electrocuted while working on a transformer at the National Guard base in north Fargo.

 Television station WDAY reports that the unidentified Dakota Electric worker was injured late Thursday afternoon while working on the base’s new fire station. He was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

 The incident knocked out power to a third of the base for a time. Generators were used to keep critical operations running.

Story via JamestownSun.com