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Four power substations vandalized in Washington, knocking out power for at least 14,000

Four power substations in the Tacoma, Washington, area were vandalized Sunday, knocking out power to more than 14,000 customers, police said. 

The first substation, located in Spanaway, Washington, and belonging to Tacoma Public Utilities, was attacked around 5:30 a.m. local time, according to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. Nothing was stolen, but equipment was vandalized, leading to outages in the area, police said.

A second nearby TPU substation was also vandalized, police said.

A substation belonging to Puget Sound Energy was also vandalized sometime in the early morning, police said. Power went around 2:30 a.m. local time. Police were notified around 11:30 a.m., and when they arrived on the scene, they found “the fenced area was broken into and the equipment vandalized,” similar to the other two substations.

Later, just before 7:30 p.m. on Sunday evening, another fire was reported at a fourth substation operated by Puget Sound Energy, according to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. Emergency response crews that included firefighters and Puget Sound Energy employees were dispatched to the scene, where the fire was extinguished and the substation was deemed secured, the sheriff’s department said in a statement.

Like the three local vandalism incidents that preceded it, authorities said a blaze broke out at the fourth substation after “suspect(s) gained access to the fenced area and vandalized the equipment which caused the fire.” Power was cut to homes in two surrounding neighborhoods, Kapowsin and Graham — the latter of which has a population of roughly 32,000 — although police did not specify exactly how many outages occurred and said power had been restored to most affected homes by midnight.

“All law enforcement agencies in the county have been notified of the incidents and will be monitoring power substations in their area,” the police statement read.

No suspects are in custody and it was not immediately clear if all three substations were vandalized by the same person or people or if the attacks are related.

As of 5:30 p.m. local time, Tacoma Public Utilities said that only about 900 of the 7,300 customers who lost power were still in the dark.

The three incidents come less than a month after someone opened fire on a substation in North Carolina, knocking out power to some 45,000 people. The “deliberate” attack raised concerns about the vulnerability of the U.S. power grid to sabotage, as many substations are protected by little more than chainlink fences.

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