Coachella power outage caused by copper thief

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Copper-Wire

COACHELLA — About 160 homes in Coachella were without electricity for two hours Thursday after vandals stole about 60 feet of copper wire from Imperial Irrigation District equipment, forcing the utility to temporarily shut off power to make repairs.

The outage, affecting homes around the intersection of 53rd Avenue and Shady Lane, lasted from around 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., said IID spokeswoman Marion Champion. Power has been restored to all homes.

IID employees who patrol the utility’s lines for damage discovered the theft Thursday morning, Champion said.

“They had cut wires and damaged the system, making it unstable and unsafe,” she said. “We had to schedule some emergency repairs.”

Last year, copper theft cost IID about $1 million, she said, and the district has been redoubling its outreach efforts to community agencies and individuals to be aware of any suspicious activity near electric poles or transformers.

IID has had a number of copper thefts this year, Champion said, but Thursday’s was the first requiring an emergency power shutdown for repairs.

The district is offering rewards of up to $2,500 for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of copper thieves, she said.

Anyone seeing suspicious activity or a potential theft in progress should call 911. Tips can also be left with IID by calling (800) 303-7756.