Lives at risk with nearly 350 malicious calls made to West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service

Nearly 350 malicious calls were made to West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service in just 12 months putting people's lives across the county at risk, it can be revealed.

By Ian Hirst
Friday, 13th September 2019, 9:29 am
Updated Friday, 13th September 2019, 10:29 am
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service

West Yorkshire firefighters were called to a total of 25, 672 incidents during 2018/19, latest figures show.

Of the 26,672 incidents, 39 per cent - 10,163 were false alarms.

A total of 348 were malicious calls and wasted valuable time and resources.

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Across Yorkshire, firefighters were called to a total of 22,712 false alarms. Of that number, a total of 746 were malicious calls.

West Yorkshire had the highest number of malicious calls with 348.

They were followed by Humberside with 172, South Yorkshire with 125 and North Yorkshire with 101.

The fire service has previously warned of the dangers of malicious calls including not only the financial burden but also the 'human risk'

A West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: "Malicious calls pose a real risk to the public.

"When fire engines are mobilised to the wrong place, they simply are not available should a real emergency be happening elsewhere.

"The fact of the matter is that it's dangerous and it ultimately puts lives in jeopardy. Not only that, but the financial burden hits the taxpayer in the pocket for something that is a sheer waste of time and money.

“Our message to these pranksters is to think twice because one day it could be their friends or family that genuinely need that fire engine.”

Control room staff at WYFRS are highly trained in call challenging techniques and are often able to detect a malicious call through experience.

Speaking previously, one control room staff member said: “We take every 999 call seriously and never disregard a call without thorough investigation.

“Having said that, you’d be surprised how convincing some hoax callers can be. Eventually, however, they tend to trip themselves up, for example, by giving conflicting information.

“Another tell-tale sign is when details given about a location don’t tally with our mapping systems.

“There’s no particular ‘type’ of person who makes hoax calls, it can be young or old alike. For call operators it’s more frustrating than anything else.”

WYFRS also recently launched a campaign to prevent moorland fires across the county, following a series of blazes in the first half of 2019.

There have been 11 large moorland fires in the last six months across West Yorkshire, causing devastation to wildlife and posing a potential threat to life and property.

The moorland fires have also required a huge fire service resource to tackle.

Firefighters and local dignitaries were among those who attended the launch of the campaign on Ilkley Moor – which saw a huge 7m x 9m banner unveiled down the ‘cow’ rock at the famous ‘cow and calf’ site on the moorland.

WYFRS Area Manager, Chris Kirby, said: “This year has seen some huge moorland fires across West Yorkshire and it’s crucial the public get behind this campaign to ensure this trend doesn’t continue.

“Some of the fires have been deliberate, which we utterly condemn – but most have been accidental and simply due to people being careless when out and about. As our campaign highlights – just one family barbecue can start a fire which destroys hundreds of hectares of beautiful moorland.”

WYFRS is supporting Bradford, Kirklees and Calderdale councils with their new public space protection orders (PSPOs) which ban barbeques, fires and things like sky lanterns on moorland.

Mr Kirby said: “We don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun but we do want to make people aware of the serious consequences that a barbecue or a dropped cigarette can have, especially in tinder dry conditions.

“A fire can spread so quickly, once it’s caught there’s little you can do to stop it and before you know it there’s a catastrophic blaze with far reaching consequences. This not only impacts on local moorland and wildlife, but affects local businesses, especially if roads need to be closed for health and safety reasons."