Friday, September 14, 2012

Subway Fire Result of Copper Wire Theft

Hundreds of people were evacuated from two subway trains during the evening rush on September 8, after a fire broke out in the subway tunnels under the Lower East Side. It was initially unclear exactly what started the fire—but it has now been determined that the fire was sparked when a cable fell across the third rail and a track rail as someone tried to steal the underground copper wire. 

In a statement, Deputy Assistant Chief Jim reported that the fire started “in a wall mounted electrical vault box that supplies power to the third rails.” MTA officials at the scene echoed that, it was an electrical fire. "A lot of smoke was coming out of the grates of the subway, and we believe that is clearly an electrical issue."

Investigators believe the apparent copper wire theft may be part of a larger operation—tools used for cutting wire were found in a closet-sized enclosure in the tunnel. The theft has been going on for months, and in all, as more than two thousand feet of 250 MCM – 600 MCM cable appear to be missing from the station.

An electrical spark travelling along the rail caused the fire and smoke condition after lengths of stripped cable dropped by the suspected copper thieves fell across the third rail and a track rail.

FDNY officials reported that approximately 500 people were evacuated from J and M trains at the Delancey Street/Essex Street stop, but no injury were reported.

A few years ago, there were a spate of copper wire thefts throughout the city —including the Greenpoint Warehouse Terminal fire in 2006,  which police believe was started by a homeless copper thief.