Suffolk fire service is responding to more hoax calls, figures reveal

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service was called out to a car blaze.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service was called out to a car blaze. - Credit: Archant

Fire chiefs have reiterated the dangers of hoax calling as new figures reveal the number of fake emergencies the brigade attends is rising.

From January 2011 to the end of June 2015, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service received 616 hoax calls, sending crews out to 304 of them.

Last year, the problem reached a four-year high, with the brigade responding to 73 pranks calls, wasting the time of 456 firefighters.

Suffolk’s Deputy Chief Fire Officer Mark Sanderson said: “Hoax calls endanger the lives of others. If our fire crews are attending a hoax call they are then not available to attend a real emergency in that area.

“It is illegal to make a hoax emergency call and we investigate each and every one.”

The maximum punishment for making a hoax call to the fire service is six months in prison or a £5,000 fine.

“Hoax calls cost the taxpayer money, but worse than that they may cost people’s lives,” Mr Sanderson added.

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“Eventually, one of these calls will coincide with a genuine emergency and this could delay our response.”

The number of hoax calls Suffolk fire service is receiving is actually reducing, with 189 in 2011, 126 in 2012, 124 in 2013, 126 in 2014 and 51 so far in 2015. However, the number the brigade is attending has risen year-on-year.

The town in Suffolk that saw the most fake emergencies was Ipswich with 184 hoax callers since 2011.

On New Year’s Day 2014, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service sent four fire engines with 15 firefighters to Wellington Court in Ipswich after a fire alarm was falsely activated.

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said the higher number of malicious calls received, but not responded to, in 2011 may be due to the change-over to combined control with Cambridgeshire Fire Service in October of that year when there was a change in how hoax calls were handled.

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