Lives in jeopardy

PUBLISHED: 15:13 25 October 2007 | UPDATED: 13:01 04 May 2010

HOAX fire calls in Cambridgeshire are putting lives at risk and cost the fire service £56,280 last year – the equivalent of a year s salary for two fully trained fire-fighters. Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service was called out to 388 hoax calls in 200

HOAX fire calls in Cambridgeshire are putting lives at risk and cost the fire service £56,280 last year - the equivalent of a year's salary for two fully trained fire-fighters.

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service was called out to 388 hoax calls in 2006, and so far this year it has attended 245 incidents which proved to be malicious calls.

Last year, fire engines were sent to 336 incidents from hoax calls and so far this year the service has attended 221. Other calls have been successfully challenged by fire control staff, who suspected calls were not genuine incidents.

Chief fire officer Graham Stagg, said: "Hoax calls are more than just a nuisance to control operators. They divert firefighters away from real emergency calls - from people who may be in life-threatening situations and need urgent help. This could mean the difference between life and death for someone in trouble.

"Also, as these figures confirm, they cost the fire service a significant amount of money each year.

"Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service will continue to do all it can to stop those who set out to deliberately misuse the time of firefighters.

The service can prosecute persistent hoax callers and claim back its costs. In the last 12 months, 18 people have been prosecuted for making a number of inappropriate or hoax calls.

Four prosecutions were successful and seven cases are currently on-going with police.

Anyone found guilty of an offence may face a fine of up to £5,000 and/or be sent to prison for six months.

All calls to the emergency services are voice recorded and the number of the telephone being used to make the call is displayed to the emergency operator. It only takes a few seconds for the operator to find out the address of where the call is being made from and this can be given to the police if a hoax call has been made. Other facilities such as CCTV can, and are used to detect bogus calls.

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