Thieves target PBC fire dept. pipes

By Lindsay Cohen email
Posted by Rachel Leigh email

PALM BEACH COUNTY, FL (WFLX) - File this one under: "What will they think of next?"

Thieves appear to be to stealing valuable parts of fire department equipment and selling them for cash.

"The price of metal has gone so sky high with the boom of the building construction, they're actually using [the pieces] to sell for scrap metal," said Deputy Fire Marshall Jeff Collins with Palm Beach County Fire Rescue.

The most common stolen pieces appear to be metal caps and Siamese "y" pipes, often found on fire department connections, either on the sides of buildings or coming out of the ground. The parts are typically made of valuable metals, like brass, and can be taken to scrap yards for big bucks.

Fire officials fear the missing parts pose a safety hazard.

"Water supply is very critical to the fire scene," Collins said. "We do a lot of things when we put out a structure fire, but water is one of the most important, and this limits our potential backup water supply."

Collins said that if the "y" connection is missing, firefighters can't fit their hoses onto the pipes, which serve as a backup water source in fighting fires. Also, if the metal caps are stolen or missing, unknowing citizens sometimes place their garbage in the holes, not realizing the pipes are important fire-fighting devices.

"The occupants of the building are incredibly important for us to be concerned about, [but] it's also our own safety," Collins added.

Fox 29 surveyed random shopping centers, buildings and alleyways in and around Palm Beach County and found plenty of parts missing.

Fire officials recommending notifying your local fire department if you notice that the pipes are incomplete.

Stealing parts from a fire department connection is a third-degree felony.