The Threat of Copper Theft

DECATUR--Days after a gas leak caused a Decatur home to explode, investigators continue to search for answers. One suspected cause: copper theft.

It's a problem that can end in disaster.

"There used to be copper in old houses for the main gas," said Jeffrey Abbott, Decatur's Deputy Fire Chief. "So copper thieves were taking that and that drew a lot of free flowing gas." 

And the free flow of gas could make houses crumble if left unattended.
"Gas leaks are extremely dangerous," said Abbott. "And we have special equipment that we can take gas monitor readings, and it tells us if it's in its flammable range."

Because if it is, an explosion could be imminent.

But gas pipes aren't the only household material that comes in copper. Wires are often coated in it too, which makes them equally attractive to those looking to make money.

"Copper is used in electrical equipment to conduct electricity," said Marcelyn Love, a communications executive at Ameren Illinois. "So when a thief touches it without the proper gear or equipment, then the electrical current can jump or strike a person, resulting in electrocution."
And not the kind you get when you stick your finger in the socket.

"Copper theft is very serious," said Love. "It can result in injury or death of a person, it also can compromise our system or cause outages for our customers."

And cause thousands of dollars in damages in the process.

Investigators say stolen copper that caused a gas leak seems like a likely explanation for the explosion that destroyed a Decatur home on Friday, but nothing is confirmed. Investigators are going through the rubble to see if a stolen appliance caused the leak that caused the blast.

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