THIEVES who raided a Cumbria tree-cutting business could have put the public at risk, its angry owner has claimed.

Holme-based Bergen Tree Services carries out essential tree maintenance work across the region – and the last few weeks have been particularly busy as high winds have made scores of trees unsafe.

Thieves gained entry to the business by smashing windows and cutting through security bars before stealing equipment worth more than £4,000.

Owner Andrew Hancock, who established the business in 1990, said the theft could have put the public at risk.

“I don’t think the thieves stopped to think about the effect this could have potentially had on their friends and family,” he said. “It couldn’t have come at a worse time, with the weather and the festive period. The staff are all hacked off.”

He has had to hire a sub-contractor to meet demand but is now replacing the stolen items – though he said the theft could have sunk a smaller business.

“It has taken three days of messing about with the insurance company but they have been fantastic, and so have the police and my supplier,” he said.

Police said thieves raided the business, based at Lindeth, City o Pinch, and took eight Husquarna and three Stihl chainsaws as well as two hedge cutters.

“They’ve gone to some trouble to get in,” he said. “I thought the building was safe but they were obviously very determined and planned it.”

PC Patrick Cantley said police wanted to hear from anyone who had been offered a chainsaw for sale.

Contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.