Thieves target buildings’ brass fittings for fire hoses

LAKE STEVENS — Scrap metal thieves who have stolen urns, church bells and manhole covers in the past appear to be setting their sights on another target these days: brass fittings used to connect fire hoses to sprinkler systems.

Lake Stevens police are investigating a string of thefts discovered earlier this week.

In recent weeks, someone stole six such fittings in Marysville.

“It is a life safety issue,” Lake Stevens fire marshal Robert Marshall said.

It’s also a blow to the local businesses that must pay to get the fittings replaced, Lake Stevens police spokeswoman Julie Ubert said.

Two years ago, Lynnwood, Marysville and Snohomish experienced a similar spree of stolen brass fittings.

The first Lake Stevens theft was reported earlier this week outside a Walgreens pharmacy in the 700 block of 91st Avenue NE.

Authorities later discovered additional thefts in the Frontier Village area at Blockbuster Video, Safeway and Bourne Orthodontics. There was an attempted theft at the Highway 9 Casino nearby.

Thieves are stealing the fittings from the stubby Y-shaped pipes that protrude from the ground near large commercial businesses equipped with fire sprinklers.

Firefighters use the fittings to tap into the pipes and provide a second supply of water to the sprinkler system during fires.

Buildings with sprinkler systems — typically large, commercial spaces — are required to have the fire hose fittings.

For business owners, it’s not just a matter of paying for a new part. The sprinkler systems also must be back-flushed to remove any debris that could have entered the open pipe. That can mean a bill up to $2,000.

Then there is the potential toll on a business if it is forced to close because of extensive fire damage, Marysville fire marshal Tom Maloney said.

“The disturbing thing is there are scrap-metal people taking fire department parts,” he said. “They are not household items. Somebody doesn’t normally come in with this thing that’s used in the fire service. Property owners and businesses and municipalities are not going to get rid of that stuff.”

The fittings typically fetch about $8 to $15 from recyclers, depending on the scrap-metal market, officials said.

Scrap metal is an $85 billion industry each year in the United States, according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries in Washington, D.C. Thieves follow the market.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com

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