Strathcona County RCMP are trying to locate a copper wire thief who stole part of a grounding line from a communications tower, east of Edmonton, that knocked out emergency radio service for the entire area.

Part of the line, used to protect the tower from lightning, was stolen from the tower near Range Road 224 and Township Road 524 around June 26. Without the protective grounding cable, lightning zapped the tower during a storm and consequently knocked out radio communication for fire and ambulance crews in the county.

"Members of the public were placed at risk," said Const. Wally Henry, a spokesman with the Strathcona RCMP, in a release.

The theft compromised emergency calls for 30 hours following the storm, as dispatch centres couldn’t communicate to vehicles on the road. It also left roughly $25,000 in damages to the tower.

"When I first got the report that the cable had been stolen, that the risk had been caused by malicious means, it wasn’t a great feeling to think that somebody would — based on $30 to $50 maybe worth of copper — affect our operations quite dramatically," said Vern Elliott, deputy chief of Strathcona County EMS.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Strathcona police.