FIREFIGHTERS in Bradford have been subject to more than 400 hoax emergency calls in the past three years.

West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service received 405 hoax 999 calls from the start of 2015 to the end of 2017, with the number of malicious calls rising by more than a third in 2017 from the previous year.

The call-outs have been on a range of bogus emergencies, including car fires, fire alarms, building fires and people being trapped following car crashes.

Pranksters making fake calls can face punishments of a fine up to £2,500 and up to 51 weeks’ imprisonment, or both.

The fire service has warned it takes the calls “very seriously” and said such calls could cause a serious risk to public safety.

Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request made by the Telegraph & Argus showed people deliberately setting off fire alarms accounted for almost half of all hoax call-outs.

There were 179 false alarms, with the majority of these being fire call points that were activated maliciously.

The second most common type of hoax call was for fires in the open, which accounted for a quarter of call outs, followed by false reports of building fires.

The station which received the most hoax calls – 40% of all calls – was Bradford fire station in Leeds Road, followed by Shipley fire station, Fairweather Green, and Odsal.

Bradford received 162 calls over the past three years, more than three times the number received by Shipley with 51, and Fairweather Green with 49.

The streets with the most bogus call-outs in the past three years are spread across the district.

Crosley Wood Road in Bingley had the highest number of hoax call-outs, with 11. Nine were fire alarms being deliberately set off, and two were false reports of a building fire.

In Leaventhorpe Lane, Fairweather Green, there were six false calls: three fire alarms, two fires in the open, and one vehicle fire.

Six fire alarms were set off deliberately in both Bolton Road in Bradford and Sampson Street in Liversedge.

Chris Kirby, WYFRS area manager for service delivery, said: “Malicious calls pose a real risk to the public and we take them very seriously.

“When fire engines are sent out on blue lights unnecessarily, they simply are not available should a real emergency be happening elsewhere.

“Critically, if our fire crews are responding to a false call, trying to find the location of an incident that is not real, this will potentially have devastating consequences if a real emergency is occurring in the same area and the fire engine is busy trying to find an incident that doesn’t exist.

“If the real emergency involves someone trapped in a house fire then this demonstrates how serious it could be, as another fire engine or engines will have to be sent from the next closest fire station which will delay the arrival of firefighters.

“Control room operators, who take 999 calls, are trained to spot signs of hoax calls and challenge the caller to determine if it is a real emergency.

“Often their questioning quickly identifies a hoax call and fire engines will not be deployed.

“This reduces the strain that hoax calls have on the service, however one hoax call is still one too many.

“We are mindful that they add an extra unwelcome element of stress to what are already stressful jobs for fire service personnel.

“The brigade tackles pranksters by working alongside police and mobile phone providers and can request mobile phone companies to disconnect the phone of a malicious caller.

“Anyone who thinks that it is funny to make a hoax call should think twice as one day it might be themselves or their family that could need us.”

The fire service also confirmed that it did not blacklist any areas with a high rate of hoax calls and would always attend a call if it suspected there was an emergency.

David Williams, chair of the Yorkshire and Humber Fire Brigades Union, said the numbers were “very worrying”.

He said: “The number of firefighters available for calls has vastly reduced in recent years.

“To see hoax calls increase is very worrying. If we are stretched chasing hoax calls it will put more people at risk.”

Mr Williams said that 999 phone staff had got better at challenging hoax callers, but the best way to reduce the numbers would be through community engagement.

“We need firefighters on the ground telling people about the dangers of hoax calls, but we do not have the resources.

“Everything we can do we are doing, but it’s feet on the ground that we need and without investment that won’t happen.”

More serious false call-outs included 64 reports of building fires, three of people on fire, 18 of vehicle fires, seven reports of people trapped after road traffic collisions, one of a large animal needing rescuing, and three of rescues from entrapment.