Copper theft sparks gas leak at area rescue mission

PRATTVILLE, AL (WSFA) - Things are back to normal at the Faith Rescue Mission store in Prattville, but workers and customers are lucky something tragic didn't happen Thursday morning.

Sometime late Wednesday or early Thursday the mission was hit by copper thieves. The suspects scaled the building's roof and ripped the metal wiring from the air conditioning units. When they did they inadvertently exposed the machines' gas lines.

Employees and customers knew something didn't smell right, but no one realized how dangerous the situation was until a backdoor was opened for extra ventilation.

"We were just shocked," said Kurt Johnson who found the leak. Johnson said he's a cigarette smoker and says he's glad he didn't light one up. "I'd been gone," he added.

Authorities rushed to the scene and capped the lines. The store was also evacuated for a short time.

There were no injuries reported, but damage costs from the copper theft are mounting. One of the AC units is a total loss and the company is looking at more than $16,000 in repair costs.

If you have any information that could help find the thieves, call the Prattville Police Department.