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Copper cable thieves silence Wash. 911 service

The thieves stole close to 1,000 feet of fiber optic and copper cable that could have shut the system down for 48 hours

Yakima Herald-Republican

YAKIMA, Wash. — Phone service, including 911, was fully restored about 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Gleed area west of Yakima following the theft overnight Wednesday of close to 1,000 feet of fiber optic and copper cable.

CenturyLink initially warned that landline and Internet service for about 2,500 customers in Gleed, Naches and Chinook Pass could be interrupted for as long as 48 hours. The outage included 911 service.

But by late afternoon Thursday, the gap had been closed considerably, with service fully restored to Naches and Chinook Pass, and by early evening all service was back.

Cellphone service was not affected. Residents without service were advised to go directly to the nearest fire station to report emergencies.

“Our crews have just been doing an amazing job,” said CenturyLink spokeswoman Kerry Zimmer. “When 911’s isolated and affected, we all are jumping into action immediately.”

The theft occurred about 3 a.m. Thursday in the area of South Naches and Powerhouse roads. Thieves pulled about 1,000 feet of fiber optic cable and copper cable that were in separate pieces but wrapped together in the same conduit over the Naches River.

The theft was only the latest caper perpetrated by scrap metal thieves, usually meth addicts, willing to steal anything not nailed down — and some things that are.

In September, Frontier Communications said the theft of aerial copper wire in the Nile Valley disrupted phone service to area residents. Two similar thefts occurred in August.

Earlier this year, a thief using a jury-rigged pole saw or pruner cut down dozens of sections of live power lines in West Valley before he was caught. He had also participated in the theft of more than 100 commercial-grade brass irrigation valves from a Lower Valley farm.

Also this year, someone stole a dozen or so iron grates at the base of street trees in downtown Yakima.

Agriculture is always hard hit, especially sprinkler heads. Last year alone, thieves systematically raided radiators and batteries from wind machines and carried off heavy duty hop wire from a Moxee farm.

During one particularly bad stretch in 2005 and 2006, thieves cut down 600 feet of copper wire that once powered the historic Yakima trolley through the Selah Gap. A year later, they climbed trees near Davis High School and tried to cut down more trolley wire outside the trolley barn. Service to Selah has yet to be restored.

Meanwhile, a 3-foot bronze statue known as a Battle Cross was stolen from a war memorial in downtown Yakima. Arrests were made. Family members of servicemen killed in Iraq and Afghanistan compared the perpetrators to grave robbers.

Thieves even stole 1,000 feet of copper cable from a storage shed at the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office used for the sheriff’s Search and Rescue team.

Even so, the problem is not unique to the Yakima area. Frontier Communications reported 12 thefts of cable wire statewide since July. Zimmer, the spokeswoman for CenturyLink, formerly known as Qwest, said thefts have been much worse on the west side of the state and in Oregon.

“It is insane what people are doing for the copper, just insane,” she said. “But it’s not just Yakima. We’ve had issues in Seattle. We’ve had issues in Portland. We’ve had issues in Bend (Ore.). It’s just pretty prevalent.”

Sheriff’s deputies are investigating. A call to the sheriff’s office seeking comment on the status of the investigation was not returned.

Copyright 2013 Yakima Herald-Republican
All Rights Reserved

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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