Fire chiefs to cut non-999 calls with charges hike

Fire chiefs have brought in �46,707 so far this financial year through the charges

Fire chiefs have brought in �46,707 so far this financial year through the charges

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Charges for firefighters called out to non-emergency work are set to surge in the Lothians.

All charges for services such as lift rescues, breaking into locked properties and washing down private roads are set to rise by 4.8 per cent.

The fee rises will also affect the cost to sports clubs or event promoters of having fire crews on stand-by.

Fire chiefs hope that the charges for “special services” will stop individuals and businesses from turning to the fire service for non-emergency work instead of calling out specialists such as engineers, locksmiths and plumbers.

Many of the companies that call out fire crews for instances such as false alarms or lift rescues are likely to be warned of what the price could be for repeated call-outs, rather than facing an immediate charge.

John Duffy, Scottish secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said: “Getting called out for lift rescues is common and there’s so many of them that people maybe think that if you call an engineer you get a bill but call the fire service and you don’t.

“You do not want people to be trapped in lifts but for something like that the fire service are often not the best people to deal with it; a lift engineer is.”

Among the charges to increase are lift rescues, which will cost £472 from April 1, washing down private roads following oil spills, at £466 and gaining entry to locked properties, at £70.

In the first nine months of the current financial year, fire chiefs brought in £46,707 from special service charges.

Most of the income related to attendances at sporting events or concerts, as well as training sessions for businesses.

Mr Duffy said it remained relatively unusual for the fire service to refuse to attend incidents or to demand a fee.

“It is tough because we do say ‘have you called a lift engineer?’” he said. “What if they say yes but they’re coming from Birmingham – do you just leave them there for hours? There’s no right or wrong but it’s really down to discretion.

“In my experience, the number of times when we’ve levied a charge are very few and far between. If someone is genuinely stuck in a lift, you tend to just help. But there are daft ones and the common one is a leak. If there’s flooding nearby and it’s the cause of a flood [in a home] we’ll deal with it but if there’s a leak because of a plumbing problem then that’s for a plumber to deal with.”

mblackley@edinburghnews.com