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Copper Thieves Go After Christmas

Bungling copper thieves burn Birmingham's Christmas tree, but a local radio station steps in to help

T. Carter Ross is editorial director for the broadcast group in NewBay Media and editor in chief of Radio World International.

Broadcasters have been well aware of the threat copper thieves for some time now. Prices for the metal remain high, and often remote tower sites, full of copper-based electrical and broadcasting systems, are a target for those looking to sell the metal as scrap.

When copper thieves end up knocking a station off the air, it is big news, but an early morning copper heist gone wrong yesterday (Dec. 15) in Birmingham, Ala., may bring the problem of copper theft to the attention of even more people.

According to a report in The Birmingham News, a group of copper bandits took the ornaments and lights off of the city’s Christmas tree, a 35-foot-tall Norwegian spruce. While using gasoline to help separate the copper wire of the lights from its plastic insulation, a fire was accidentally sparked, burning the tree to the ground.

The thieves fled the scene and police are investigating. Newspaper reports do not note whether or not the wiring was taken or abandoned when the fire started.

The city had spent some $7,500 on the tree and did not intend to replace it.

Cox Radio station Kiss 98.7, however, felt it wasn’t right to let the city go without a Christmas tree, so it donated a new tree to the city.

“Every important image about Christmas is so important,” said Kori White, Kiss-FM operations manager. “You can’t let anyone steal that away from us. It’s important to act, and act quickly. We’ve got to have a fighting spirit.”

The city cleared away the charred remains of the first tree in time for the new tree to be installed in Lynn Park about 12 hours after the fire was started.

The Birmingham News has some video of the new tree’s arrival.