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A would-be gas thief was forced to beat a heated retreat after he caught fire while trying to steal from a parked truck in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The thief was attempting to siphon gas from a box truck parked outside Summit Fire and Protection in Salt Lake City when he caught fire and was forced to run away from the truck, local NBC affiliate KSL-TV reported. The incident occurred in broad daylight Saturday morning.
Surveillance video from the incident shows a man underneath the truck with a heavy-duty pickup truck alongside, its passenger door ajar. Suddenly, the would-be thief’s shirt catches fire. He slides out from underneath the truck, runs across the parking lot, and rolls on the asphalt in an attempt to put out the fire. The suspect’s accomplice then scoops him up and they drive off.
“The reason why he’s fleeing is that, if there were more gas in it than a gallon, this thing would have absolutely turned into a bomb,” Travis Mills, branch manager of Summit, told KSL. “It’s sad because times are tough for a lot of people, but it’s not worth the $5 that he would have saved for the injury that the guy sustained.”
The thief caught fire because he was trying to drill into the gas tank. “The guy tried to siphon gas out of it and he wasn’t getting the siphon to work,” Mills said. “So he decided to drill the gas tank, and that’s when he caught on fire.”
Mills told the outlet that the truck had already had its catalytic converter stolen and the gas had already been siphoned out of the truck. It is also not the first major burglary the company has had. Mills said that they have had multiple catalytic converters stolen, and a number of smash-and-grab thefts as well. The company had previously installed a $30,000 security system because of the thefts — but the cost of replacing the parts is not the only hardship for the company.
“Horrendous expense,” Mills said. “We have downtime with our guys, immediately. Oftentimes we don’t know what’s going on with it until we go to get in it, and now your gas is gone and it doesn’t start.” The trucks are out of commission until they can be repaired, which has been harder to do recently. “We’re finding that gas tanks are hard to come by,” Mills said.
Salt Lake Fire Marshals Division Chief Tony Allred said that drilling into a gas tank is very dangerous. Gasoline vapors are extremely flammable, and Allred said that heat put out by the drill, the drill bit, or even just static electricity could cause the gas to explode. “It’s just extraordinarily dangerous for the person stealing the gas for a very low return,” Allred said. “Unfortunately, given the gas prices in the valley and nationwide, we are seeing an increase in gas thefts.”
This particular thief’s efforts may have gone up in flames, but it is just the latest in a growing trend of sophisticated gas thefts across the country. The Daily Wire reported last week that thieves in Nevada have developed an intricate system of piping allowing them to steal thousands of gallons of fuel from pumps. In March, thieves in North Carolina and Florida stole hundreds of gallons of gas from stations in their states using devices that manipulate the internal systems of the pumps themselves.