Copper thieves destroy electric substation in Oklahoma

NORMAN, Okla. --

Investigators with the Oklahoma Electrical Cooperative said thieves are likely responsible for damaging two substations that knocked out power to people in Norman.

Police said the thieves probably targeted the substation in order to get copper to sell for scrap.

"Maybe to replace the copper, it would be $1,000 to $1,500, but scrap-wise, I don't know what it is," said the OEC's Randy Simmons. "Maybe $2 or $3 a pound for maybe 40 to 50 pounds of copper. So I don't know what would make you risk your life for that small amount of money."

Investigators said that in the process of trying to take the copper ground wire, the thieves made a mistake that caused the entire substation to ignite.

"They think that whenever they cut that wire, they already had all the other grounds cut, and when they cut it, that's when it started arcing. All the black spots are places it was sparking off," said Simmons.

The explosion knocked out power to 3,500 residents. The OEC said it brought in a temporary substation to restore service to those customers. The utility said it will cost more than $1 million to restore the substation.

Simmons said the thieves cut a hole in the fence to get into the site and they didn't leave any tools behind.

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