Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue have issued a desperate appeal to the public after being subjected to an influx of false and malicious emergency calls from across the county.
The spike in the number of hoax calls being made has come alongside an increase in fire-related emergencies as well as staff shortages due to both illness and injury.
Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue said they were ‘called out eight times within a short period to false alarms where a fire call point has been maliciously damaged.’
A spokesperson for Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue said: “We are asking the public for information after a spate of false alarms in Nottingham City Centre residential blocks during the night and early hours.”
Chief Inspector Chris Pearson of Nottinghamshire Police said: “As a force we take all reports of criminal damage seriously. We will investigate and take robust action against those involved in this sort of irresponsible and illegal behaviour.
“Every time a fire crew or fellow emergency responder is called out unnecessarily it means they may be unavailable to attend a potentially life-threatening incident,” of which there have been a number over the past days.
Several Nottingham residents have had their say on the “infuriating” hoax callers negative effect on Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue.
Pearl Veikens, from Bulwell said: “These people who make hoax calls should be jailed.”
Dan Clyde, also a Bulwell resident said: “They should be charged and fined for time wasting.”
While one woman, who wishes to remain anonymous said: “We recently lost a close family friend that we knew for over 40 years – her house caught fire in the early hours of the morning and she died later in the day from her severe injuries.
“Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue (NFR) and other emergency services were quick to the scene and despite their efforts it was obvious the lady would not survive.
“It infuriates me that people would make hoax calls to NFR putting peoples lives at risk and increasing the possibility that someone else may suffer in the same way.
“These service men and women put their lives on the line for us with every call and have to live with the trauma the attend.
“I also do not think that the general public are aware just how many hoax calls the emergency services receive.”
Since Wednesday, January 26, there have been serious house fires in Selston, Forest Fields and Kirkby-in-Ashfield, with two people tragically losing their lives in the latter.
Emergency services reached the scene in Kirkby-in-Ashfield within only six minutes of the initial call, however, were tragically unable to save the lives of both a man and a woman in their sixties, who were pronounced dead at the scene.
A blaze also broke out at a recycling plant in Lenton in the early afternoon of Monday, January 30 that carried on through to the morning of Tuesday, February 1.
At one point during the height of the flames, there were estimated to be 15 emergency service vehicles on the scene, and Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue had 12 appliances there themselves, as the fire raged on.
Neighbouring buildings were evacuated and large sections of the A52 were shut in both directions as the services also issued an asbestos warning and advised nearby residents to stay indoors.
The cause of the fire still remains unknown.
Even during an emergency to the scale that this was, a fake call was received, which could have caused a real problem due to the number of units on the scene as well as staff shortages.
Between October and December 2021, on-call staff experienced an average of 8.68 days lost, ranking the Service 21 out of the 24 nationwide, according to research taken by the Nottinghamshire and City of Nottingham Fire and Rescue Authority.
Tracy Crump, Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue service’s Head of People and Organisational Development, said: “Whilst there has been an increase in sickness absence during quarter three (October to December), compared to the previous year, most of this can be accounted for by COVID isolation periods.
“We do all we can to support staff who are not well to ensure that they can return to the workplace safely and at the earliest time.”
Over this period, there were 419 days lost due to self-isolation as the fire service faced 80 separate coronavirus cases.
The other main reason for absence was muscular skeletal problems, of which there 32 cases resulting in 374 lost days.
Not only is it affecting resources and equipment, it will also affect the financial power of the services in the future.
The resources being wasted by the people making these unnecessary, malicious calls will be significant, especially given that for a high-rise block emergency Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue send out three units as standard procedure.
On top of this, the expense for an increasing number of genuine fire-related incidents will be increasing, which combined with the money being wasted on a growing number of days lost, does not bode well for the 2022/2023 budget.
The full scale of the damage will remain unknown until February 25, when Nottinghamshire and City of Nottingham Fire and Rescue Authority will set its budget for 2022/23.
If you have any information regarding the false calls, Fire and Rescue ask that you contact the police, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.