Warning prank callers will be punished

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IDIOTIC pranksters caused an elderly woman to be woken up in the middle of the night after sending a hoax call to the fire service.

Crews from Wigan fire station were called to a property on Park Road, in Orrell, after being phoned twice in quick succession to say there was a blaze in a kitchen at around 11pm on Tuesday.

Two fire engines attended the scene but found no trace of a fire, and were forced to wake up an elderly woman in the property to ensure everything was safe.

The hoax call took the emergency services around 30 minutes to deal with in total, with the firefighters carrying out a home safety check and assuring the occupants, who had been asleep, that there was no problem.

The fire service has now disabled the mobile phone used to place the calls, which was traced to the Longshaw Village area of Billinge near the location of the now-closed maternity hospital, and is warning other hoaxers who waste the emergency services’ time and tie up fire crews answering prank calls they will face the same consequences.

Mike Fairhurst, Crew Commander at Wigan fire station, said: “Hoax calls are a waste of resources, and if there is a real fire it will increase the travel time.

“We got to the house and there was just nothing, and when the occupants came down to answer the door they knew absolutely nothing about any call, so we realised what had happened.

“If there had been an incident while we were in Orrell, fire engines would have had to come from Leigh and Wigan to deal with it, and by the time they got there a house fire could become a very serious matter.

“We want people to be aware of what will happen if they make hoax calls.

“We can place a request with the mobile operator in a matter of minutes to have the phone locked using its individual operating number, and then it will be completely unusable and the owner will have to get a new one. That is exactly what we did in this case.

“As that covers all the networks, it doesn’t matter what sort of sim card you put in it, it just won’t work.”

Anyone who makes a hoax calls to the emergency services is committing a criminal offence, and can be taken to court. Punishments include a fine of up to £5,000 and up to six months’ imprisonment.