More than 10,000 customers lost electricity on Christmas Day after several power substations were damaged by unknown suspects in Washington state, authorities said Monday.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department said 14,000 customers near Tacoma lost power after the suspect or suspects broke into four substations and damaged equipment, even causing a fire at one of the locations.
The first break-in occurred at Tacoma Public Utilities substation around 5:26 a.m. local time and was described as a burglary. Nothing was missing when deputies arrived but equipment was vandalized, according to the sheriff.
A second power station break-in was reported shortly thereafter.
Later in the morning, Puget Sound Energy told the sheriff’s office they had discovered their own break-in and damaged equipment hours before the first Tacoma incident.
A fire was reported around 7:20 p.m. Sunday evening at a fourth substation — a Puget Sound Energy facility — but it was extinguished and the area was secured by firefighters and employees, the power company said.
“We know this incident has impacted many people’s holiday celebrations, and our crews are working hard to get power safely restored to all customers as quickly as we can,” Tacoma Public Utilities said Sunday night.
Power was restored for most of those affected in the towns of Puyallup and Graham by later Sunday evening, but more than 1,000 were still in the dark on Monday morning.
It “is unknown if there are any motives or if this was a coordinated attack on the power systems,” the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department said Sunday in a statement, adding that no suspects are in custody.
No other information was given about the extent of the damage at the four locations.
The incident comes several weeks after “targeted” gunfire at two substations in North Carolina knocked out power for about 45,000 people in Moore County in what was described as a criminal act and led to a $75,000 reward being offered for information that would lead to an arrest or arrests.
Multiple similar incidents occurred in Washington and Oregon last month.
In November, the FBI issued a bulletin warning that “racially or ethnically motivated” ideological extremists could attack energy infrastructure “to create civil disorder and inspire further violence.”
Prior to the November incidents, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued its own bulletin that “lone offenders and small groups” had made threats against critical infrastructure.
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