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14 April 2011, 10:02
A family's had a terrifying ordeal after thinking their flat was on fire - but it turned out to be just a prank.
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service was alerted to an incident at Bere Road, Denmead just after 11pm last night (13th April) Control operators mobilised two fire appliances from Waterlooville Fire Station and one fire appliance from Cosham in response to reports of a fire at James Howell Court.
Whilst firefighters en-route to the scene control operators based at the Service Headquarters in Eastleigh gave important safety advice over the telephone to the occupants of two of the flats located on the first floor of the property.
Control Operator Jennifer Dawson of Green Watch, Control said: “As a matter of course myself and a colleague both continued to stay on the line to the residents of two separate flats who had called us. Understandably, the family that I was dealing with were very panicky as smoke had started to filter into their home from the external hallway. The advice we give to people in these circumstances is to put something like a towel across the bottom of the door to stop the smoke coming through. As smoke was already in their hallway and kitchen I advised the occupants to go into the lounge and close the door, again placing something along the bottom of the doorway, and to open the window and stay down low on the ground next to the window and await for the arrival of the firefighters. I continued to reassure them until I heard the voices of the firefighters in the background of their flat.”
Upon arrival, crews established that the large amount of smoke was not in fact due to a fire but had been caused by a smoke bomb being let off inside the communal area of the block of flats.
Station Manager Bruce Gordon said: “I was mobilised together with numerous other personnel to what was initially reported as a fire with ‘persons reported', meaning that people could be trapped inside a building that is on fire . Obviously we have to treat a call such as this as serious until proven otherwise. Not only has this been a waste of time for the firefighters and staff in our control room but other support staff in the fire service, and the police and ambulance service, who were alerted to this incident.”
He continued: “Of course, it goes without saying that this would have undoubtedly caused undue distress and inconvenience to the occupants of the block of flats who were affected by this thoughtless act. This has happened within twenty-four hours of a serious house fire in nearby Waterlooville that the Service attended. I would like to remind people to think twice about taking part in something that may seem like a harmless prank, such as the act that took place tonight. Although no harm may be intended it could put lives at risk if our resources are being unnecessarily sent to a bogus job.”