Stealing Live Copper Wire - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Stealing Live Copper Wire

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PASCO, Wash. - Stealing live copper wire from power substations is a trend sweeping the Northwest. Thieves recently stole nearly 500 lbs of wire at a station in Pasco.

Copper wire sells for about $4.00 a pound. Places like power substations are laced with it. However substation strands carry electric volts by the thousands.

The problem is thieves are so fixed on turning copper into cash, they're risking their own lives.

Just a few days ago thieves broke into the substation off Road 68 and stole 500 feet of copper wire. You can see where crews welded in new wire to replace what crooks took, and spots for wire workers still need to replace.

Crews said if you touched the wire, it'd be like getting hit by a bolt of lightening. That's exactly what happened to one Pasco man allegedly stealing wire in Clark County.

"They got a call of a body smoking in the substation.  And they got out there and the guy was stealing copper just like this. The guy cut the wire and it got in between him. And he fried, he got cooked right on the spot," said Joe Grade, Franklin P.U.D.

Grade said cutting live wire can not only hurt the thief, but it also can kill crews working on the stations.

So Franklin P.U.D. is now looking for new ways to deter burglars, offering rewards to witnesses and beefing up security. They said the reason is simple.

"Safety to our lineman, safety to the public, safety to our customers - that's number one in a utility company, safety."

Franklin P.U.D. said it would approve a change in state law making it harder for people to sell wire without documentation.

Now there is talk of Washington state lawmakers discussing ideas of making scrap dealers operate like pawn shops where people give identification and may have to wait to get paid. That may come up in the next legislative session.