Aberdeen had the highest rate of malicious calls to the fire service in Scotland last year, with almost 7% of reports found to be hoaxes.
In the 12 months to April 2020, crews in Aberdeen received 161 hoax calls – 6.8% of all reports, which was the highest percentage of any local authority area in the country.
In Aberdeenshire, there were just 30 malicious calls, with a further 20 in Moray according to figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives.
The number for the city marks a slight decrease from the 185 incidents in 2018/19 – but remains the third-highest in Scotland behind Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Scottish Fire and Rescue chiefs have warned such calls are a criminal offence.
Head of service delivery for the North of Scotland, deputy assistant chief officer Andy Watt, said: “While the service have plans and procedures in place to ensure our communities are protected at all times, every second counts in an emergency and when firefighters have to attend hoax calls there is the chance they could be taken away from incidents where lives are at risk.
“Making a malicious call to the emergency services is a criminal offence and we will always work with our partners in the police to identify those responsible.”
And Fire Brigade Union Scotland’s regional secretary, Denise Christie, warned that “every second counts” when responding and such calls are putting extra strain on workers.
“People’s lives could be put at risk due to hoax fire calls and they can be a major drain on resources,” she said.
“If fire crews are responding to a hoax call, then they are not available to respond to a genuine call for help.
“This could mean that a fire appliance from further away has to be mobilised which may take longer to attend the incident.
“This can become more dangerous if it is a fire where every second counts in responding.”
North-east MSP Tom Mason said: “These calls are extremely dangerous, irresponsible and absolutely disgraceful.
“Every emergency call is treated as an emergency and hoax calls can take up valuable resources, putting lives at risk.
“Abusing the 999 system could mean emergency resources are dispatched to incidents when in fact they are needed elsewhere – it’s atrocious that someone would want to do this.
“Fire crews do a fantastic job and it’s vital their work isn’t hampered by this inexcusable behaviour.”
There were a total of 2,375 false alarms in Aberdeen over the period covered by the figures, of which 1,962 were due to faulty equipment and 252 were reported by the public with good intentions.
While Aberdeenshire saw 1,101 calls, 222 of which were with good intent with 849 attributed to the equipment.
In Moray, the total number of false alarms was 662, with 530 due to equipment and 112 reports from the public with good intent.
Harriet Cross, the Tories’ candidate for Aberdeen Donside at next year’s Scottish Parliament election, added: “While it is welcoming to see the number of hoax calls in Aberdeen declining, it is still the highest in Scotland in relation to the percentage of overall calls which is extremely concerning.
“Hoax calls also put additional pressure on control room staff, not only taking the calls but deploying people and equipment to deal with the incident reported, based on the information they are given.
“Every hoax call which the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service receives costs time and money; while diverting firefighters and lifesaving equipment to incidents which simply don’t exist.”