Police say three men, including one in a wheelchair, started a fire while trying to steal pipe from an oilfield in Taft. An eagle-eyed Taft police officer noticed smoke coming from the edge of town.
"Officers from the Taft Police Department noticed a plume of smoke that was growing in size," said Taft Police Lt. Pete Aranda.
When officers went to investigate they found 34-year-old David Cook, 52-year-old Marcus King and 56-year-old Bobby Miller in a Ford pickup.
"The subjects were in a hurry to leave the area; trying to get the gate open," Aranda said.
Police say the suspects claimed they were leaving in a hurry so they could get help. Police doubt that claim because the group had a cell phone but never made a call to 911.
"They eventually admitted to being in the area and cutting pipe with a grinding wheel," Aranda said.
Taft police say the suspects had been cutting up an abandoned pipeline.
"They were cutting metal pipe which is later taken to a recycling center, and right now the going rate is 6 cents a pound," Aranda said.
Police say all three have a history of drug charges. Kern County firefighters stopped the fire at about three-quarters of an acre in size. Police say Miller uses a wheelchair and could have become trapped by the fire.
"He is partially dependent on a wheelchair, so he could have been seriously hurt by this incident," Aranda said.
The suspects face theft, conspiracy and fire related charges.
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