VANDALS risked their lives and cut power to hundreds of homes as they attempted to steal electricity cables.
Thy burned through two 66,000 volt aluminium voltage cables inside a concrete container above the Leeds and Liverpool canal, near Chapel Lane.
The fire damaged around 80m of cable and cut electricity to 571 homes in Ince until 1.45am on Monday.
Fire crews from Hindley spent more than four hours isolating the flames.
Watch commander Mike O’Neill said: “Somebody had tried to steal the cables, which were in a concrete structure 15ft above the canal.
“The container was encased with steel cladding, and inside was aluminium, which is not worth much. Stealing cables is very dangerous and stupid. Not only has it knocked the power off for hundreds of houses, but, more importantly, it is a danger to someone’s life. These thieves are taking their lives in their hands trying to steal these types of cables, as they risk electrocution.
“Our firefighters were at the scene for about four hours. We had to wait until Electricity North West could confirm the supply was isolated.”
Andy Smith, Electricity North West response manager, said: “This incident caused hundreds of customers to lose their electricity supply, caused thousands of pounds of damage, and could have been deadly for the vandals themselves. Vandalising or trying to steal live electricity cables is an incredibly stupid thing to do.
“Fortunately for local residents, the fire service and our own engineers were at the scene very quickly and were able to reduce the impact of the damage.
“We restored customers’ supplies by other cables and will carry out a full repair as soon as we can.
“I urge anyone who has any information on who may have been involved to contact the police.”
A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said they had not received details of the crime, but would welcome any witnesses to come forward.