RCMP make arrest in connection with fire-coupling thefts

A string of fire-coupling thefts left several Chilliwack buildings at risk. RCMP recovered the couplings, which were broken and unusable.

One man has been arrested in connection with a series of brass fire-coupling thefts from downtown area buildings.

Chilliwack Fire Department Cpt. Don Van Beest says at least 25 buildings, and maybe more, had couplings taken. The absence of working connections created a serious risk for people living and working in those buildings.

“The purpose of these couplings is to allow us to augment the water supply to sprinkler or standpipe systems,” Van Beest explains. “A sprinkler system is supplied at 65 PSI (pounds per square inch). With these connections, we’re able to access the fire hydrants and get that as high as 175 PSI, which puts considerably more water on a fire.”

RCMP executed a search warrant on an address in the 46000 block of Princess Avenue late last week, recovering 28 couplings. Unfortunately, the connections had been broken, rendering them unusable.

“For a few bucks of scrap metal, the person who did this created the potential for a large amount of damage,” Van Beest noted.

The person arrested has not yet appeared in court.

In the meantime, Van Beest has been making the rounds to make sure the couplings are being replaced.

“That’s meant playing the role of not-so-nice fireman, telling building owners/managers that they must get a repairman in, pay the bill and get them fixed,” he said. “The cost is around $150-200 per coupling, and some have two. The museum got hit twice, as did a condo strata. And when I contacted one person, he said, ‘I can’t go on replacing these connections.’ And I said, ‘You can and you will.’”

Less vigilant property managers may not have been aware of the thefts until Van Beest gave them a call.

They’ve now been informed.

“Most buildings are inspected at least once a year, and we inspect a couple hundred every month,” Van Beest noted. “So something like this doesn’t escape notice for long.”

RCMP Cpl. Len vanNieuwenhuizen said the scope of the problem remained undetected for longer than it should have because people reported the thefts to the fire department, and not the RCMP.

“We encourage people to report matters of theft to us,” he said. “We like to get those reports firsthand, because we might have questions to ask that the fire department wouldn’t realize.”

Anyone who witnesses or has knowledge of a theft is asked to call the local RCMP detachment at 604-792-4611 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).