Rocky Mountain substations damaged, copper wire stolen

Dec 15, 2022, 10:08 PM | Updated: 10:50 pm

SANDY, Utah — Rocky Mountain Power asked for the public’s help reporting suspicious activity around their electrical substations Thursday, after the company says someone vandalized three stations in the Sandy area and stole copper wire from two of them.

It’s not the kind of incident you hear of often in Utah, though Jona Whitesides says it has happened.

“The whole purpose is anywhere they can find copper wire is to steal it and resell it,” Whitesides said. communications specialist at Rocky Mountain Power.

Whitesides says the initial report showed just one of their substations in Sandy impacted. A crew responded and found the fence cut and copper ground wire missing.

They routed it to a new circuit while they fixed the problem. The response cut off power to about 3,500 homes for no longer than a half an hour.

But Whitesides said they take any incident at an electrical substation seriously.

“Anytime we hear there’s a problem in a substation that’s why we dispatch somebody quickly to kind of assess that situation to know what is it that we’re dealing with,” he said.

Across the country there have been at least 70 incidents of vandalism, sabotage or physical attacks at electrical facilities this year, according to The Department of Energy. Just last week a shooting at electrical stations in North Carolina cut off power to thousands for days.

“I don’t want to say, fortunately, but in a sense, this was all about theft rather than about some other thing we’ve seen in the nation in some of the other utilities,” Whitesides said.

He also noted that the electrical equipment at their substations are surrounded by fencing for a reason.

“Not only does that put a potential thief at the risk of electrocution to where they could possibly die,” he said. “It’s actually to make sure people who are not properly trained don’t come in contact with the equipment.”

After responding to the initial incident, Rocky Mountain crews inspected other nearby substations and found two more that had fences that were damaged and one with more copper wire missing.

Whitesides says Rocky Mountain Power will look at whether they need to take any action to better secure their substations.

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Rocky Mountain substations damaged, copper wire stolen