Four arrested after police find toxic copper fire

Photo by Carly Farrell

Photo by Carly Farrell

ALBANY, Ga. -- To get at the lucrative copper in industrial-type cables, thieves have to burn off the insulation.

Following smoke and flames to the 400 block of Nona Drive, Albany police and firefighters found a burn barrel full of burning copper wire insulation about 1:30 a.m. Friday, said Sgt. Edward J. Heath of the Albany Police Department.

"One of our uniform officers saw smoke and thought it was a brush fire," Heath said. "He found A-1 commercial grade copper burning.

Thieves know you can get good money for it. They've been selling it in surrounding counties."

Officers arrested Curtis Mosley, 21, Porsha Luke, 20, and Antonio Williams, 23, for burning egregious litter, a police e-mail stated. Shawna Flowers, 28, was arrested for being a party to a crime, it added.

Egregious litter as defined in the Georgia Criminal and Traffic Law Manual is any discarded substance exceeding 10 pounds if hazardous.

"They don't care that burning the wire sends off a poisonous gas," said Albany Fire Department Investigator Sam Harris. "All they care about is making money."

More charges could come from the investigation because the cable was probably stolen, Heath said.

There is probably more stolen property on the grounds of the home behind 401-A Nona Drive, he added.

A black, industrial fan with a 24-inch blade sat on the back patio with "PG" spray painted on it in white. Behind it was a washing machine.

The fan was obviously stolen from Procter & Gamble, Harris said.

The washing machine could also have been stolen, he added.

Harris estimated the weight of the copper cable in the burn barrel and on the ground to be about 500 pounds. The price of copper from the website metalprices.com lists a pound of copper bringing $3.76 a pound. The copper found Friday could be worth more than $1,800.

Those arrested knew the copper was valuable; they had three pit bull dogs chained next to the copper within attack distance.

When firefighters arrived to put the fire that reportedly reached as high as a two-story house, they had to call animal control officers to restrain the dogs.