FIRE chiefs in East Lancashire have issued a stark warning about the dangers of hoax calls, after Blackburn was temporarily left with no cover earlier this week.

Despite a 65 per cent decrease in hoax calls in the region since 2007, worried officers said people still needed reminding that ‘genuine emergencies are being put at risk’.

At 8.30pm on Monday night, a man rang 999 claiming that people were trapped in a burning house in Accrington Road, near the Intack traffic lights.

As one of Blackburn’s two pumps was already out attending an automatic fire alarm, when the malicious call came in, back up was sought from Hyndburn.

Blackburn crew manager Steve Johnson said: “We always send two pumps to a house fire, then it was upgraded to a three-pump fire because the caller said there were people inside. That meant that two pumps from Accrington also had to be called out. When we got to the house, there was no fire.

“But the message needs to be put out there that fire engines cannot be in two places at once, and hoax calls tie up a lot of resources.

“For 10 minutes on Monday night the nearest cover was 15 minutes away.”

In five years, the number of hoax calls in Lancashire has gone down almost 70 per cent – from 787 to 233.

The number of hoax calls in East Lancashire has fallen from 170 calls in 2007 to 59 so far this year.

The biggest number this year have been recorded in Blackburn, with 23 calls, followed by Burnley with 22.

John Taylor, of the Lanc-ashire Fire and Rescue Service, said the main reasons for the decline are improving technology in call tracing, less phone boxes for hoaxers to use, and an arrangement with ‘pay-as-you-go’ mobile providers to immobilise SIM chips of hoaxers phones.

Monday night’s call was made from a kiosk on the corner of Pringle Street and North Road by a man.

The call is now being dealt with by police, and if traced, the caller could face a heavy fine.