For $15 scrap metal value, thieves do $2,000 damage

  • Wed Oct 21st, 2009 9:29am
  • News

By Katya Yefimova Herald Writer

MARYSVILLE — Metal thieves have hit the Tulalip Resort Casino before, but when they stole brass fittings used to connect fire hoses to the sprinkler system inside the building, casino President Ken Kettler became worried.

“It’s a safety concern that someone would put anybody in jeopardy like this,” Kettler said. “We want to keep a close watch on it.”

Firefighters use the fittings to quickly pour lots of water into the sprinkler system inside large commercial buildings. Without them, the fire would be more dangerous for both firefighters and anyone inside the building, Marysville Fire Marshal Tom Maloney explained.

A building’s sprinkler system wouldn’t provide as much relief by itself, which can lead to more fire damage.

The Tulalip Resort Casino was not the only building hit: As of last week, thieves stole or damaged 10 other fittings in Marysville, including the local YMCA, Maloney said.

Recyclers in the area only pay about $1 for a pound of brass, an alloy of copper and zinc. The fittings weigh 10 to 15 pounds, Maloney said.

Thieves likely walk away with a meager $15. Business owners, however often end up with a $2,000 bill to replace the fitting.

Similar thefts have been reported across the country, disturbing fire officials, said Curt Varon, a manager with the National Fire Protection Association in Quincy, Mass.

Besides paying for a replacement, business owners must have the new connection inspected.

Buildings with sprinkler systems — typically large, commercial spaces — are required to have the fire hose fittings. There are about 170 buildings in Marysville equipped with sprinkler systems, out of almost 1,500 commercial structures. They are all being checked to make sure the connections are in place, Maloney said.

Fire officials in Marysville also are drafting a grant to help offset the cost to business owners, he said.

“That’s an unfortunate situation that our business owners have been placed into,” Maloney said.

In Lynnwood, fire officials last week were missing four connections in the area just south of Alderwood mall, Lynnwood Assistant Fire Chief LeRoy McNulty said. Two or three more have been damaged.

“This is the first time in my 30 years I’ve seen anybody steal fire department connections,” he said.

In Snohomish, thieves in the spring snatched a large fitting from the city’s Home Depot, Snohomish Fire and Rescue Deputy Chief Ron Simmons said. The building has a huge sprinkler system, and the fitting itself likely cost about $1,000, he said.

One thing businesses can do to deter thieves is to order secure locks that cover up the screws on the fittings.

“Of course, they are not meant to be secure, quite simply because we want to access them in a hurry,” Simmons said.

Tulalip Casino president Kettler said the administration is looking for a secure device that still would allow firefighters easy access. “We think that might be a good deterrent,” he said.

Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452, kyefimova@heraldnet.com.