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Copper Thief Triggers Early Morning 4-Alarm Vallejo Brush Fire

VALLEJO (CBS SF) -- A 4-alarm vegetation fire erupted in a rural area of Mare Island early Wednesday, ignited by a copper thief who damaged two power poles in attempt to access to electrical lines, authorities said.

Capt. Kevin Brown of the Vallejo Fire Department said Mare Island Energy -- a small independent power company -- had been targeted by copper thieves.

"We have determined a cause," Brown said. "There are power lines on the south end of the island serviced by Mare Island Energy. They reported to us that they had an occurrence lately of individuals attempting to steal copper power lines for recycling purposes. We discovered there were two power poles that had been cut nearly entirely through. They didn't fall but the angle at which they are leaning caused the lines to go down. We found cut marks in them as well saw blades adjacent to the site."

"The fire burned from that location northward," he added.

The fire was declared 100% contained at 8:40 a.m. and had charred 10 acres.

Fire Engineer Kevin Brown said firefighters were dispatched for a smoke investigation at 3:10 p.m. before a working fire was reported at 3:40 p.m. The response quickly was elevated to 4 alarms as the blaze gained ground in the Red Flag Warning fire conditions.

According to Brown, at least 20 firefighters were at the scene on the south end of the island at the Mare Island preserve with others including Cal Fire dispatched as mutual aid.

Mare Island Fire
Chopper 5 above a 4-alarm fire that broke out on Mare Island in Vallejo on September 25, 2019. (CBS)

"It's frustrating to say the least. We're a busy department as it is," Brown said. "And to have criminal activity such as this create additional fires, and fires this tough to tackle due to the terrain access, this goes beyond tactical resources."

Access to the area was difficult. Single track roads, ridges and cliffs were slowing the firefighters response. No evacuations were ordered.

No injuries to firefighters or civilians have been reported.

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