Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Prank Fire Calls Costing Millions

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Prank Fire Calls Costing Millions

Article excerpt

Byline: By Gareth Deighan

Hoax fire calls cost the North East more than pounds 3m per year ( and the cost is rising.

This week is National Hoax Calls Awareness Week ( designed to highlight the human and financial cost of these calls to the fire service.

Latest figures obtained by the Chronicle reveal that almost 2,000 hoax calls were made across County Durham, Northumberland and Tyne & Wear in a year.

The Economic Cost of Fire report estimates each hoax call costs pounds 1,700, which equates to pounds 3m per year in the North East and pounds 84m per year nationally.

Chris Lowther, head of community safety for the Tyne & Wear fire service, said: "Hoax calls are unnecessary and unbearable to the fire service.

"The problem with them, aside from the financial problems they cause to the taxpayer, is that they prevent firefighters being able to get to real fires where people could die.

"They also prevent the fire service improving fire protection in the community. They need to be totally eradicated."

The fire service is cracking down on the hoaxers, and those caught will be prosecuted.

Sir Graham Meldrum, head of Her Majesty's Fire Service Inspectorate, said: "Young people in particular need to be aware what can happen if the fire brigade is called out under false pretences ( the danger to others involved in a real emergency and the financial drain they impose on a service that is there to save people's lives.

"Making a hoax call is illegal, and the penalties for making a call for `fun' are high ( either a pounds 5,000 fine or six months in prison."

Blind serial phone pest Denise Talbot was given an Asbo and jailed last November after making 280 hoax calls to the emergency services.

Talbot pleaded guilty to charges of persistent messages to cause annoyance and various breaches of the peace. …

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