THE fire service's new Warrington control centre tried to send a crew from Carlisle to a blaze in Bolton — a 200-mile round trip.

Now union chiefs say the controversial centralised control system is putting lives at risk.

The bizarre decision happened when Carlisle East fire station received a printed message telling them to rescue a man who was trapped near a reservoir in Rivington in June.

The crew called the centralised control base to ask why they were being sent 100 miles away and were told it was an error.

Les Skarrats, north west secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said it was another example of the strain being placed on the new system.

He added that only the continued professionalism of members was stopping a tragedy occurring.

The new centre in Warrington now handles emergency calls for Greater Manchester, Cumbria, Lancashire and Cheshire and replaced local switchboards.

Mr Skarrats said: “It is happening more and more often and this will undoubtedly put people’s lives at risk.

“We have made it clear that the loss of local knowledge would lead to issues such as this.

“If the calls were still being taken in Manchester I very much doubt this would have happened."

He added: “This is a serious problem and it is only the professionalism of our members that is stopping a real tragedy occurring.”

Paul Hancock, chief fire officer of Cheshire and lead project director of the centre, said: “The staff have been using the system for two months now.

"During that time it has picked up in excess of 13,500 calls and mobilised a response to these incidents.

“We are continuing to review the system and are still working with controllers to make sure it is fully implemented.”

He added that the removal of the borders between the four regions makes it more likely that people will get the nearest available pump sent to deal with an emergency.

In May, the Greater Manchester branch of the FBU passed a vote of no confidence in the centre.

A local fire crew successfully rescued the man from Rivington, who had head injuries after falling from a bridge. The man was taken to hospital.