FIRE chiefs in Hartlepool have stressed that hoax calls risk lives after crews were called to a non-existent house blaze.
Two fire engines raced to Stephen Street, Hartlepool, on Friday night after someone dialled 999 claiming a house in the street was on fire.
But when they got there, officers discovered there was no fire and the people at the house knew nothing about the call.
Andy Robinson, watch manager at the town’s main Stranton Fire Station, warned such hoax calls divert them away from real emergencies and cost precious time and resources.
He said: “The dangerous thing about this is obviously it takes away resources. We sent two appliances for this, so if there was a fire elsewhere it extends our time in getting to those real fires and we have to get other resources from Headland or Billingham.
“While we are responding to the malicious call there could be an incident somewhere else.
“There is also the cost or responding and man hours to think about.”
Watch manager Robinson added work in recent years to clamp down on hoax callers has seen a big reduction in the number of incidents and more people being caught.
Cleveland Fire Brigade’s Hoax Call scheme means the brigade can trace a 999 call from any mobile phone, landline or a call box.
The fire service works with mobile phone providers that will disconnect the hoax caller and their details are quickly passed on to police.
The fire brigade can also use CCTV to target phone boxes where hoax calls are made from.
Watch manager Robinson said: “We can trace them and we pass all the details to the police and people will get prosecuted. The issue of malicious calls is a lot better now than it was years ago.”
A local woman has been arrested by police on suspicion of misusing the 999 system.