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Forum staff reports, Published September 05 2013

Theft of $50 worth of copper leads to $30,000 in damages near Wahpeton

WAHPETON, N.D. – Copper thieves cost the Otter Tail Power Company more than $30,000 in repairs after stealing about $50 worth of copper wire from a Wahpeton-area substation, company officials said Thursday.

A caller reported arcing wires at the electrical substation north of Wahpeton around midnight Sept. 4, Otter Tail Power Company spokeswoman Cris Oehler said.

Authorities and compa-ny workers found that someone had cut the substation fence and ground wires from electri-cal equipment before hit-ting a live wire, which caused an arc flash. About 20 pounds of wire was missing, Oehler said.

“In this case, the thief, or thieves, risked severe burns or death for about $50 worth of copper, and they put emergency re-sponders and people who rely on electricity for life support at risk,” Eric Hamm, the company’s safety services manager, stated in a news release.

Hamm said several large customers had to shut down operations when the company turned off elec-tricity to secure the scene.