Four homes went up in flames and hundreds were left without power in sub-zero temperatures this morning after thieves cut through a cable at an electricity substation to steal copper worth just £40.
One family, with two young children, was forced to flee their home in Greenock, Inverclyde, at 4am.
They escaped the house in Devon Road after thick smoke filled the property. The 28-year-old father was treated for smoke inhalation.
Fires: As a result of the cable theft, small fires broke out in three homes around the area. Frank McGarrity, (left) landlord of one of the properties, stands in the house which was engulfed in flames after the power surge
The fires were sparked by a power surge from the cutting of cables in a substation in Burns Square in the town.
A spokesman for the company said the thieves risked their lives by stealing the cable which had caused an ‘incredible’ problem for local people.
The criminals took three metres of copper wire, said to be worth about £40.
By cutting the neutral wire, they caused a power surge back that caused domestic fuse boxes to blow, starting the fires.
The spokesman said: ‘There are currently 280 homes offline and engineers are working to restore it and visit all homes affected. We’re also working with the council to set up somewhere residents can go in the meantime to get something hot to eat or drink as it’s a cold day.
Fled: A family was forced to flee their smoke-filled home in the early hours after the power surge caused several fires
Intense: The heat from the fire melted the plastic on children’s toys
‘The cable that was stolen was only three metres and that’s not worth more than a double-figure sum.
‘They were were lucky because there’s an 11,000-volt cable in the substation and if they had tried to cut that they would’ve been electrocuted.
‘It’s caused an incredible amount of trouble and they’re lucky to be alive.’
Police said the family forced to flee their house due to a fire had faced a ‘terrifying’ ordeal.
Inspector Jennifer Shanks said: ‘This young family have been extremely lucky that they managed to escape so quickly from their house with two very young children, however, with five weeks to go before Christmas, their house has been extensively damaged after a surge at their electricity box.
‘This terrifying fire was caused by someone stealing around £40 worth of copper piping from the nearby Burns Square substation.
Dangerous: The thieves stole metres of wire which caused fires and left hundreds of homes without power
Stolen: Three metres of solid copper wire, worth about £40, was stolen from the substation
‘Additionally many other families in the local area experienced fires in their homes and damage to their property.
‘Around 300 houses in the Larkfield area have been left without electricity on one of the coldest mornings of the year, some of these householders will undoubtedly have very young, or old people who are vulnerable to the cold.
‘We have said to the public many times before that the theft of metal is extremely dangerous and no more so than this morning. Around £40 worth of metal being stolen has almost cost a family their lives and left many people without power.
Damage: The electric substation in Greenock was broken into and caused several fires
‘I would like to reassure the public that we are carrying out extensive inquiries to trace those responsible for this theft and I would ask anyone who has any information or who was in the Burns Square area of Greenock in the early hours of this morning to get in touch.’
Scottish Power said it was working to restore electricity to the area but engineers needed to visit every home affected to make sure there is no damage, or further problems could be caused when the power is turned back on – which it hoped would happen by late afternoon or early evening.
Scottish Power launched a campaign last month offering up to £10,000 for information leading to the conviction of thieves who steal metal from substations and asked anyone with information on the theft in Greenock to contact them or the police.
Anyone with information can contact police on 101 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 08000 555 111. Scottish Power can be contacted on its 24-hour response line 08452 727 999.
Original Content by The Daily Mail