Brass fire hydrant valves stolen from several buildings in DeBary

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DeBARY, Fla. - A string of thefts targeting critical firefighting equipment has been brought to a halt in DeBary.

Deputies said 28-year-old Cecil Legette stole more than a dozen brass connector valves from several locations along Springview Commerce Boulevard.

Officials said the valves are needed in order for crews to battle fires, and they must now be replaced, which means the cost will fall back on the public.

One of the valves was stolen from the side of Hesco RLS Industries. Employees didn't even know the valve had been stolen until a sheriff's deputy told them.

"Sheriff's deputy walks in and says, 'Do you realize you've been burglarized?'" said Shane Hunt of Hesco RLS.

But it was Orange City firefighters who first noticed the missing connections.

"It's a huge issue," said Ronnie Long of the Fire Department. "There's a lot of property that could be lost, lives that could be lost. Firefighters or citizens could die."

Volusia County sheriff's deputies said Legette stole 14 of the fittings, essentially rendering each building's fire suppression system useless.

"They just basically punch those out with a pipe and spin it off the threaded pipe itself," said Hunt.

The caps are worth roughly $20 apiece as scrap, but the cost of replacing them all is about $400.

Deputies traced the thefts and were able to recover many of the heads at a scrapyard less than a mile away.

Hunt was able to get his connection back, and he's now paying to have locks put on to keep the theft from happening again.