AUDIO: Hoax caller tells fire service “people have died” in Leeds school blaze

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This is one of the hoax calls about bogus incidents in Leeds that cost West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service more than £57,000 in wasted call-outs in a year.

In it a boy claims a school in Brownhill Crescent, Harehills, is on fire and that “loads of people have died”.

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He is quickly exposed as a hoaxer when the call handler points out that there is no school at the address he gives.

The handler adds: “I can get your phone disconnected so that you won’t be able to use it any more. What would your mum and dad do if you can’t use your phone any more because you’ve had it cut off?”

A recording of the call was released as the YEP learned the huge cost to the service of bogus reports.

Crews used up valuable resources attending an average of one fake incident a day across the county in the last financial year, a third of which were the result of calls from time-wasters in Leeds.

The 367 trips cost the service an average of £420 each – a total of more than £154,000. In Leeds 137 call-outs cost£57, 540.

Now chiefs are warning that pranksters are potentially putting lives at risk and could have their mobile phones cut off – or face criminal prosecuation – as a result.

Fire safety manager Ian Bitcon said: “You would be amazed at how convincing some of these calls are. At the end of the day, when these people make these calls they should be aware that there could be an incident going on somewhere else that we take longer to attend and it could involve their friends or family.

“It’s obvious that if we are attending a malicious call, we are potentially diverting valuable resources from other genuine incidents.”

West Yorkshire is one of many services that has had to find savings in the face of major budget cuts. Resources have been further stretched by strike action by the Fire Brigades Union in a row over pension arrangements.

Six hoax 999 calls were made during the latest eight-day period of strike action.

Assistant chief fire officer Dave Walton said: “These calls divert our strike limited resources from their essential role of protecting life and property. We condemn those responsible for these completely reckless actions.”

The fire service uses technology that allows it to pinpoint where calls are made.

It passes on details of hoaxers to mobile phone providers and the police.

An O2 spokesman said: “We work closely with the police to identify the offenders and, where appropriate, we will disconnect their mobile service with us.”


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