Copper thieves start home on fire - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Copper thieves start home on fire

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EYOTA, Minn. (KTTC) -- A property caretaker was in the right place at the right time when she was able to extinguish a basement fire.  However, if she had shown up to the home any sooner, she may have bumped into some unexpected visitors.

During the mid morning hours on Tuesday, a fire broke out in the basement of an Eyota home on the 3000 block of 122nd Ave. Northeast.  "The caretaker responded out here to oversee the property and she discovered there was a fire in the basement. And she managed to get the fire out," said Sgt. Scott Baker of the Olmsted County Sheriff's Office.

The flames were coming from near the water heater. Both Eyota a Dover fire departments responded to the scene and determined, this wasn't an accident.  "When they got in they determined there had been some copper piping cut from inside the residence," said Sgt. Tom Claymon of the Olmsted County Sheriff's Office.

Law agencies call them 'scrappers,' people who steal, essentially the copper guts from inside a home.  "They take it to recycling center throughout the state and western Wisconsin and turn it in just as one would turn in aluminum cans," explained Sgt. Claymon.

In this case, the suspect may have cut one too many items.  Sgt. Claymon said "whoever did the cutting must have realized, at some point, they had cut a gas line and tried to crimp it to stop the flow if the gas."

The gas line wasn't completely sealed off and at one point ignited.  "The fire damage itself was fairly minimal versus the cost it's going to take to replace the plumbing," added Sgt. Claymon.

Unbeknownst to her, Sheriff deputies believe the caretaker missed the vandals possibly by just minutes.

Sgt. Claymon says the number of scrapping thefts have been on the rise due to the price of copper and asks if you see unfamiliar vehicles or suspicious activity especially in rural areas, to not hesitate the Olmsted County Sheriff's Office.

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