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Gassing up for nothing

Jason Unrau
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Dec 16/05) - Heating fuel is a hot commodity this winter in more ways than one. According to Inuvik Lions Club president Bev Garven, the charity organization has lost more than $5,000 worth of fuel since the cold weather began.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Arctic Dove's Teddy Rogers hangs up a key for a heating fuel customer. Locked storage tanks have increased 10-fold in the past 16 months says proprietor Paul Wiedemann. - Jason Unrau/NNSL photo

"We've had seven or eight tanks worth stolen so far," she said. "There doesn't seem to be anything that can be done about it."

To add insult to injury, Garven says the fuel pilferers actually stole the club's extra tank to help them steal the fuel from the new one.

Several broken fuel cap locks have also added to expenses. While the clubhouse, or what's known as the Lions Den, keeps fuel on hand to "stop the pipes from freezing" in the winter, the fact somebody would steal from a charity is what really bothers Garven.

"It's eating away at the money that we give away," she said. "From the Lions Club point of view, virtually every dollar we raise goes back into the community."

Garven estimates that the club donates between $70,000 to $75,000 each year.

Garven says police have been notified and the club was told that without any witnesses or physical evidence, the person or persons responsible would have to be "caught in the act."

Inuvik Staff Sgt. Sid Gray says the detachment is investigating several fuel thefts.

"There are other spots in town that have had fuel stolen," said Gray, naming the power corporation and Rocky's Plumbing as examples.

The fuel storage at Environment and Natural Resources warehouse at Shell Lake has been hit more than once, Gray added.

The Lions Club recently installed motion detectors and a surveillance camera with hopes of getting the video goods of the next heist.

Paul Wiedemann at Arctic Dove - the only fuel delivery service in town - says despite an increase of about 20 cents a litre over last season, he doesn't believe the higher cost of fuel is a factor.

"Categorically, no," Wiedemann responded when asked if more expensive fuel was driving people to steal it.

At Arctic Dove's office, Wiedemann points to a wall of more than 40 keys to his customers' heating fuel storage tanks.

"There used to be just four," he said adding that he's noticed an increase in fuel theft over the past 16 months which has resulted in more locked tanks. "It's just sickening."

Arctic Dove, which sells heating fuel, diesel, gasoline and aircraft fuel, offers its employees free heating fuel as part of its benefits package.

So does he have any advice to deter fuel thefts?

"We keep a guard dog, have an alarm system and video surveillance," he said. "I'd say report any suspicious activity around your fuel tanks to police."