- Associated Press - Sunday, October 26, 2014

HAMMOND, La. (AP) - City officials said thieves are making off with brass fire hose connections on commercial buildings in Hammond.

WWL-TV reported (http://bit.ly/qQLnOh) at least 20 of the connections have been taken from stores, strip malls and other businesses.

The thieves are believed to be making off with the connections and selling them for cash at scrap yards.

The problem is statewide, and the state fire marshal’s office said it has opened an investigation.

“The fire department cannot connect, they cannot pump water into the sprinkler system and protect the building and protect the occupants while they’re making rescues and evacuating buildings, so this is a serious life safety issue,” said state Fire Marshal Butch Browning.

Local firefighters are on the lookout for missing connections.

“We did take a few man hours to go out and do the inspections. We’ve kicked that up to make sure that anytime anyone goes for an inspection they go out and make sure that they put eyes on that fire department connection,” said Hammond Fire Chief John Thomas.

The department is carrying an extra connection on its trucks in case firefighters respond to a fire at a building that has been a target of the thieves.

The thefts also are a financial burden for businesses. It can cost hundreds of dollars to replace the connections.

“It’s kind of sad that people are going to go steal it,” said Ultimate Party Store manager Gregory Flathers, who discovered the store’s hose connection missing recently. “It’s obviously something that we need for our sprinkler systems and all that could pose a hazard.”

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Information from: WWL-TV, http://wwltv.com

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