THOUSANDS of homes were left without power after mindless vandals diced with death to torch a 33,000-volt electricity substation.
Fire crews had to wait for Scottish Power engineers to isolate the electricity being generated at a major substation on the old United Glass site on Ravenhead Road before they could extinguish the blaze.
Intruders set a pile of rubbish alight inside the building at about 4.30pm last Wednesday (February 2) and the re-setting of the substation left around 4,200 St Helens homes and businesses without power.
Once firefighters from Eccleston and Whiston Fire Stations had put out the blaze, Scottish Power engineers restored power to 3,000 homes by 5.45pm and reconnected the remaining addresses by 6.30pm.
A police investigation into the incident is now underway, but it is not yet clear whether it was a botched attempt to steal copper wiring or simply a malicious act of vandalism.
Guy Jefferson, network operations director at Scottish Power, said: “It quite simply beggars belief that anyone would want to take risks with thousands of volts of live electricity. The fact that we did not find a dead body at the scene is purely down to luck.
“The criminals who broke into this substation have caused significant problems and inconvenience for people all across St Helens. Their actions are hugely irresponsible and completely unacceptable.”
Eccleston Fire Station watch manager Phil Hunt agreed: “Clearly, fires in substations are highly dangerous and anybody entering the building without permission is putting themselves at serious risk of injury and posing unnecessary risks to the firefighters who have to put the fire out.
“Although this fire was on a derelict site there was still 11,000 volts live inside. We worked with Scottish Power to isolate the substation and a further four before we could go inside and tackle the fire.
“If residents see any sites that are open or damaged, they should contact Scottish Power and should never approach or enter the site.”
Anyone with information about this incident can contact Crimestoppers, in confidence, on 0800 555 111.