FIREFIGHTERS say thieves could have caused a potential disaster at a Portsmouth tower block.
More than 40 firefighters were sent to reports of a balcony fire on the seventh floor of Nickleby House, in All Saints Road, Buckland, on Saturday night.
But when they got there they discovered three metal valves had been removed from dry risers – pipes used to transport water easily up the building.
Normally the pipes would send the water to each floor and firefighters would simply attach their hoses to the valves.
But with the valves missing, the water ended up gushing out and not reaching the seventh floor.
Fire crews were forced to connect their hoses on the ground floor and carry them up seven flights of stairs, wasting valuable time.
In the meantime what had started as a small fire had spread to the inside of a flat and was in danger of getting out of control.
Thanks to the swift actions of the firefighters it was brought under control before it could escalate further, but the service issued a stark warning after the drama was over.
A Hampshire Fire and Rescue spokesman said: ‘This was a dangerous situation made even worse by someone’s stupid decision to take those valves.
‘I suppose it could be because they are made of metal, but whoever did it is putting lives in danger.
‘Dry risers like this one are essential to fighting fires in high-rise buildings and if we cannot use them it wastes valuable time and could cause a disaster.
‘In situations like this it is absolutely vital we can gain access as quickly as possible.
‘People need to think before they put the lives of others at risk.’
It is believed the fire in Nickleby House could have been started by a small firework landing in a balcony.
Southsea firefighters were also called to the next-door block, Barkis House, in Brownlow Road, twice on Saturday night to deal with fireworks that had been left in bins.
They didn’t cause any damage but a fire service spokesman said they wasted valuable resources that could be spent fighting other fires.
‘It is a shame that some people don’t realise how serious doing things like this are,’ he said.