A Rantoul building on the former Chanute Air Force Base was damaged by thieves scavenging for copper.
Fire Chief Ken Waters said his department was called to the former Command Center on Borman Drive at 7 a.m. Thursday after a man who planned to lease the building noticed the damage.
Waters said the man discovered windows broken out of the back and smelled natural gas. He called 9-1-1.
Firefighters shut off the gas to the property, but “you could still hear something. ... There was water flowing,” Waters said.
They discovered that thieves who had been scavenging for copper pipes had left open a 3/4-inch natural gas pipe. When the thieves took a 1-inch water line, they also did not turn off the water.
Firefighters discovered 4 to 6 inches of water in the basement.
“We turned the gas off, had the power shut off, and we had the water department out there,” Waters said. “We found the valve for the water and shut it off.”
Waters said there was extensive damage to the building caused by the water and the thieves tearing off the ceiling to get to the pipes.
Waters said the building is owned by Tim Mathews.