£100k of fire equipment stolen

THIEVES were accused of putting peoples' lives at risk last night after it emerged more than £100,000 of equipment has been stolen from Essex County Fire and Rescue Service in the last year.

THIEVES were accused of putting peoples' lives at risk last night after it emerged more than £100,000 of equipment has been stolen from Essex County Fire and Rescue Service in the last year.

The figure has been described as “very disturbing” and “grotesque” by MPs in the county, who have called for security to be improved.

In one case, specialist cutting gear worth almost £15,000 was taken from Frinton fire station, while there were also nine other break-ins at other premises.

The total loss came to £104,491 and Essex County Fire and Rescue Service has since spent some £200,000 on a range of security measures at its stations.

A spokesman said the thefts could put lives at risk because crews would have to come from further away to attend incidents if local equipment had been stolen.

He said it was “completely mindless” for people to steal from a service dedicated to saving lives.

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“This equipment could mean the difference between life and death for someone trapped in their car and this theft not only hurts us but hurts the millions of motorists who rely on us to come to their rescue when the worst happens.

“It is disgusting to think that someone would break into a fire station and steal equipment which we have solely to provide protection to the public.”

The Holmatro cutting equipment taken from Frinton - known in the service as the “jaws of life” - is the type used to rescue people from their cars.

The hydraulic cutting and spreading machinery is used to free casualties who are trapped in the wreckage of their vehicles following a collision or those that cannot be safely removed because of the extent of their injuries.

Simon Burns, MP for West Chelmsford, said the news was “very disturbing”.

He said: “It's unbelievable that heartless criminals can be putting the lives of innocent people at risk by stealing from the emergency services, who do a fantastic job in protecting public safety.

“It's crucial that security is improved but one wonders why more action wasn't taken earlier to try to minimise opportunities for people to steal.”

Bernard Jenkin, MP for North Essex, said it was “grotesque” that today's petty criminals could stoop so low.

He added: “It is so sad that we have to spend money on replacing things like this instead of investing in the service.”

The matter will be discussed tonight at a meeting of the Essex Fire Authority's Challenge and Innovation Committee, which will be told that the investment in extra security has already resulted in a “significant reduction” in the number of thefts.

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