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Modesto Fire Hydrant Thefts Costing Taxpayers Thousands

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MODESTO (CBS13) – Metal thieves are seeking out a new target that could put your lives at risk.

What’s more, considering all the work involved in stealing them, the crooks can’t be making much from them.

Thieves have made off with a total of five fire hydrants, but stealing them is anything but easy.

“They turned the water off in the street, then unbolted hydrant and left. So, water is still off and they are gone,” said Dave Savage with the Modesto Water Division.

It’s a tedious process that takes water workers 20 minutes each to fix. That’s why Modesto city water employees are baffled by the string of fire hydrant thefts, and are left wondering who is behind the crimes.

“They might be stealing these hydrants and turning them in for cash,” said Savage.

But fire hydrants are not made of pricey metals.

“It’s cast iron,” said Savage.

Weighing about 100 pounds, a singe cast iron hydrant is only worth $12 as scrap.

“I think it’s just due to the economy, people are hurting,” said Savage.

Some of the thefts happened in an unfinished subdivision.

“That’s sad. Hydrants! Wow,” said resident Eldrin Bajries.

Bajries says he’s seen homeless people set up camp in vacant lots; so, it’s not surprising thieves targeted the spot.

“When it’s night, you wouldn’t see anyone,” said Bajries.

A city water crew working in the area noticed the missing hydrants a week ago.

Criminals might pocket $60, but it’s costing taxpayers almost $4,000 to replace and repair the damage left behind.

And workers wasted no time getting the job done in case a fire breaks out.

“Without these hydrants, there’s no way to put something out,” said Savage.

The city is alerting local recyclers about the thefts, and hope they will call the police if anyone shows up with a hydrant.

The city is also urging people to call police if they see anyone other than a city worker tampering with fire hydrants.

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