Fire chief blasts hoaxers

The Acting Chief Officer for Donegal Joe McTaggart said they would be seeking to have those who make hoax calls prosecuted in the courts and, if convicted, the Fire Service would also be seeking to recoup the costs in regard to sending out fire units and personnel.

Speaking with the ‘Journal’ yesterday Mr McTaggart said hoax phonecalls to Donegal’s fire service have increased by more than 60% in the past five years.

And they are not amused.

“We have to treat every call in the same way until we find out differently. When we get a call a fire tender is sent out compete with crew.

“What can happen when it is a hoax call is that we would not be able to respond immediately to a genuine emergency where the consequences could be loss of life at a fire or a road traffic accident where a person might not be extricated from a vehicle in time. It could also mean increased property damage. Time is off the essence in dealing with emergencies and hoax calls can result in very serious consequences.”

Mr.McTaggart said the cost of the hoax calls in 2011 had been estimated at 35,000 euro.

“At a time of cutbacks that means the ‘pot’ of funding for genuine council services is cut even more. There is only so much funding available and someone, somewhere will have to pay the price for hoax calls.

“That is why we now have a policy of reporting all hoax calls to the Gardai for investigation. Under the 1981 Act, anyone detected making a false call can be taken before the courts and have a fine or a prison sentence imposed. We would also seek to cover our coasts if the person is convicted.

“I’m aware that there are a number of investigations active at the moment.”

The Acting Fire Chief said that between 2007 and 2011 there had been an increase of 64% in hoax calls. He revealed that in 2011 there were 23 hoax calls made to the fire service.