HUNDREDS of lives are being put at risk as reckless thieves are stealing vital firefighting equipment.

The thefts of the dry risers at Brooke House in Basildon town centre could mean firefighters are unable to fight a blaze on one of the building’s higher floors.

In recent months thieves have repeatedly stolen or damaged the risers.

They are metal pipes locked in secure cases which allow firefighters to connect their hoses and pump water from the ground floor to the higher storeys.

Now firefighters are urging residents living in the complex to be on the lookout for thieves or any suspicious activity and report it.

Basildon Station Officer Martin Trevillion, also a community safety officer, said: “Damaging dry risers like this makes it more difficult for firefighters to tackle fires in flats and puts residents at unnecessary risk.

“We are asking residents to be extra vigilant and report anything suspicious they see to the police.

“Dry risers are an important tool which firefighters use to quickly deliver water to exactly where it is needed in a block of flats.

“Despite the damage crews will still be able to tackle fires, it just adds complication to an emergency situation.

“Remember, dry risers are there to help save lives and anyone stealing them is putting residents at greater risk.”

Police are probing the thefts and are appealing for anyone with information to come forward.

An Essex Police spokeswoman said: “We will investigate any reported incidents of damage or theft of dry risers.

“The people responsible for this may see it as criminal damage. However, it could have very serious consequences for the residents.”

The thefts of the dry risers is not the first time yobs have risked the lives of residents living in the 1970s Grade II listed building.

In 2010 arsonists torched green fire exit signs in the stairwell of the flats, which are used to guide residents out of the building in the event of a blaze.

Witnesses to the theft or damage of dry risers at Brooke House can contact police at Basildon on 101.