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Copper theft leads to business fire

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- A fire at a strip mall cuts power and pulls the plug on local business.

The fire started just after 3:30 p.m. Wednesday on N. May Ave.

QuickFix store manager Kayvon Taghizadeh said, "This is absolutely going to be devastating for our business."

The problem started five days ago when copper thieves dismantled A/C units.

"It's like Dante's inferno in there and heat does not mix well with electronics," Taghizadeh said.

When contractors were installing new units Wednesday, a blaze ignited while a worker welded a pipe.

Dozens of firefighters rushed to the scene but had to wait to battle the sparks.

OKC Fire Battalion Chief Mike Walker said, "We weren't able to extinguish the fire until OG&E was able to arrive on scene and cut the power to the building."

Strong winds fanned those flames forcing the fire through the wires of the entire strip mall. 

Now those five business are left without power for at least two weeks.

Managers said city inspectors told them they have a work time-table and those shops will have to wait their turn.

"Without electricity we're really limited to what we can do. This is a real inconvenience for us and our customers," Taghizadeh said.

Walker said the contractor is reputable and accidents like this happen.

The business owners said they have spent the evening on the phone with their insurance companies to find out if there is any coverage for a situation like this.

While officials said they probably only made off with $50 copper a piece, Walker said the damage is about $30,000.