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12 September 2012, 10:52 | Updated: 12 September 2012, 11:23
Firefighters in Hertfordshire say metal thieves have put lives at risk by stealing firefighting equipment from a group of tower blocks in Stevenage.
They include a block of flats where two firefighters died in a fire in 2005, along with a woman they were trying to rescue.
Thirteen dry riser outlets - large metal pipes and taps that enable fire crews to draw water to each floor - were stolen from Harrow Court, Brent Court, Highplash and Highcroft over the weekend of the 8 & 9 September 2012.
A fire at Harrow Court in February 2005 (pictured) claimed the lives of resident Natalie Close and firefighters Jeff Wornham and Michael Miller.
Hertfordshire's Chief Fire Officer, Roy Wilsher, said the theft could cause delays in getting water to a fire, threatening lives.
"Dry rising mains are an important fire fighting system in high rise buildings, enabling us to pump water from the ground to the floor where the fire is," he said.
"We have contingency plans, and can still get water to all floors of high rise buildings, but these thefts could delay us dealing with a fire, costing valuable time in saving lives."
Councillor Richard Thake, Hertfordshire County Council Cabinet Member for Community Safety, said: “It’s disgusting that someone would steal life-saving equipment like this. By stealing these outlets from high rise residential buildings these crooks are potentially putting people’s lives at risk. If anyone knows anything about these thefts I would ask them to tell the police immediately.”
Councillor Ann Webb, Executive Member for Housing at Stevenage Borough Council, added: “The safety and security of our residents is our main priority, and we would like to assure them that despite these thefts, effective fire detection and fire precaution are in place. We are taking this matter extremely seriously, and are working closely with Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service and Stevenage Fire Station to install anti-theft measures this week.”