At least three power substations were vandalized on Christmas Day in Pierce County, Washington state, according to officials in an update that comes just weeks after another substation was vandalized in North Carolina.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that one Tacoma Public Utilities substation was vandalized in Spanaway, located between Olympia and Tacoma, at around 5:30 a.m. local time on Dec. 25. Police said the incident led to power outages in the area.
A second Tacoma Public Utilities substation was vandalized a short time later, officials said. “Deputies arrived on scene and saw there was forced entry into the fenced area. Nothing had been taken from the substation, but the suspect vandalized the equipment causing a power outage in the area,” deputies wrote on Facebook.
Later on Dec. 25, at around 7 p.m., a Puget Sound Energy substation was vandalized after a fire was reported on-site, according to the sheriff’s office.
“The fire was extinguished and the substation secured. Power was knocked out for homes in Kapowsin and Graham. The suspect(s) gained access to the fenced area and vandalized the equipment which caused the fire,” Pierce County sheriff’s officials said. “There are no suspects in custody at this time.”
It added that “all law enforcement agencies in the county have been notified of the incidents and will be monitoring power substations in their area,” noting that “power has been restored to most of the affected homes.”
In all, about 14,000 customers lost power across the area, the sheriff’s office said. However, power has been restored for most affected people, it said.
A statement released by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office said that it “is unknown if there are any motives or if this was a coordinated attack on the power systems,” adding, “Deputies are currently on scene at this facility where the fenced area was broken into and the equipment vandalized.”
The FBI confirmed that it is aware of the incidents but would not say whether it was taking part in an investigation.
“We do take threats against our infrastructure seriously and urge anyone with information to contact law enforcement,” the FBI told CNN on Sunday.
Temperatures around the Tacoma, Washington, area reached about 55 degrees F on Christmas Day, according to the National Weather Service.
The incidents come less than a month after officials said someone opened fire at a substation in North Carolina on Dec. 3, knocking out power to thousands of people for about a week. No suspect has been arrested in the case, and no motive has been given.
The attackers “knew exactly what they were doing,” Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said several weeks ago.
After the shooting at the substation, law enforcement officials in Washington state and Oregon released a warning that state utility systems, too, could become targets.
“Power companies in Oregon and Washington have reported physical attacks on substations, using hand tools, arson, firearms and metal chains possibly in response to an online call for attacks on critical infrastructure,” said a memo issued by law enforcement in Washington state. “In recent attacks, criminal actors bypassed security by cutting the fence links, lighting nearby fires, shooting equipment from a distance or throwing objects over the fence and onto equipment.”
Around the same time, Puget Sound Energy told KING-5 TV in early December that two incidents took place at stations in November.
“We are aware of recent threats on power systems across the country and take these very seriously. We are monitoring our infrastructure and can confirm we have had two incidents occur in late November at two different substations. Both incidents are under investigation by the FBI,” said Puget Sound Energy’s statement.