Copper wire thieves are endangering themselves and others by removing Okanogan County PUD infrastructure from the Cold Springs Wildfire burn area.
The PUD lost several miles of lines, and since it will all be rebuilt in 2021, not all of the damaged infrastructure has been removed yet. Thieves in white camouflage have been sneaking into the rights-of-way of the PUD and trespassing on private property to take copper wire to sell for scrap.
The PUD is working with the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office to catch these thieves in the act. These activities could endanger the lives of not only the thieves, but others.
PUD crews spent 23 hours of overtime Dec. 18-20 to remove as much of the damaged infrastructure from private property as safely as possible to try to take the activity off those properties. Thieves have resorted to knocking over good poles rather than just take what is on the ground.
The danger isn’t just in the falling poles and other pieces of equipment. The dangerous activities can also affect the line miles down the road and could cause the damaged lines to sag and drop on active distribution lines, causing the de-energized lines to become re-energized again, injuring anyone who might be in contact with those lines, as well as causing an outage.
Thieves are truly risking their own lives to make a few dollars on scrap metal. Most scrap facilities do not take utility scrap any way as they assume it is stolen.
When able, the PUD will scrap these materials to offset the cost of construction projects.
The PUD is asking that anyone who sees suspicious activity on their own property or in powerline rights-of-way call 911 immediately so they can be caught by law enforcement.