An investigation has been launched after North Yorkshire fire crews were sent to the wrong address after an emergency call had been redirected to a control room around 400 miles away in Cornwall.
As a result, fire engines from Harrogate fire station took nearly half an hour to reach a fire in the Killinghall area after initially arriving at the wrong destination and then having to check where they should be – which was two and a half miles away.
The mistake has prompted concerns over an agreement between North Yorkshire and Cornwall fire services to handle each other’s emergency calls if one control room can’t cope with the volume of calls.
North Yorkshire Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said it was fortunate the incident, which happened on Wednesday morning, involved a car on fire at an industrial unit rather than a house fire with people trapped inside.
FBU secretary Steve Howley said: “What should have taken crews between 6 and 8 minutes to arrive at, resulted in the eventual attendance being 25 minutes after the initial call.
“This is completely unacceptable and something we have raised concerns about recently. Staff shortages in our control room are at dangerous levels, with our control operators placed in untenable positions at times and the only option to divert 999 calls to Cornwall.”
The FBU said the caller gave an accurate post code and stated the name of the business park they were on. She had to make two further calls asking where the fire engines were.
Mr Howley added: “The health and wellbeing of our control staff, firefighters and members of the public is being ignored by the Chief Fire Officer as he and his senior managers have failed to address the concerns we have repeatedly raised.
“Instead they try to justify the cuts by suggesting Cornwall is adequate back up, well this proves that’s not the case as it’s vitally important Control Operators have local knowledge, and are able to communicate with the fire crews on the ground which is not the case with Cornwall.”
North Yorkshire area manager Carl Boasman said: “We are aware of an incident where appliances attended an incorrect address and this is currently under investigation to establish the cause and to fully understand the circumstances around it.
“It’s a joint investigation with Cornwall as we would do with any incidents that arise.”
The scheme to share control room services began last summer and has reduced costs through staff cuts.