Search for person who cut 12,000-volt line

May 9, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Police are looking for whoever tried to steal the wiring from a high-voltage transmission line. PG&E says someone cut into a 12,000 volt line at Lake Merced Boulevard and John Muir Drive in San Francisco. A power outage and fire resulted, and the search is on for someone who may have serious injuries.

It was a bad idea from the beginning, slicing a 12,000 volt power line. The utility pole on John Muir Drive caught fire and nearby lights went out.

Not far away PG&E workers found a charred hacksaw in some weeds, along with a pair of gloves that had burned up. Yet, no sign of the person whom PG&E suspect was trying to swipe the power line to get the profitable aluminum and copper wiring inside.

"We do have reason to believe the person involved did attain electrical burns and/or other burns," said Battalion Chief Lori Kalos of the San Francisco Fire Department.

Stealing copper and aluminum wiring has been a problem for the utility which has been getting more help from recyclers who don't buy stolen goods.

"We use high grade copper. They know what to look for so if a person is attempting to sell copper that is stolen, they can identify it as PG&E," says Joe Molica from PG&E.

Stealing metal has become a hot new business venture. This week, somebody stole the brass valve from a Richmond chemical company causing a large spill and killing hundreds of fish. Fancy bronze gates disappeared from St. Joseph's Cemetery in San Pablo. In another theft, two people were arrested in Fresno on charges of pocketing brass cemetery urns.

"We're seeing it more and more as people get more desperate," says Dan Knapp from Urban Ore Recycling in Berkeley.

Knapp also points to the growing need for metals in overseas development.

"The prices have just skyrocketed over the past six to eight months and that's because of international development that is going on in all kinds of countries," says Knapp.

Metal prices have been steadily rising over the past year. A pound of copper brings in about $4. Aluminum sells for over $1 a pound.

The person who did this may have paid the ultimate price.


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