FIREFIGHTERS are called out to a false alarm more than 1,500 times every year and malicious hoax calls are thought to have cost the fire service thousands of pounds over the last decade, according to latest figures.

Emergency services from the five Reading stations received 15,697 calls of this kind over the last 10 years, with Caversham Road (3,865) called to the most false alarms.

Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request indicate 14 per cent of all calls to Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS) since 2007 fell into this category.

False alarms are filed by the fire service when someone deliberately makes a hoax call, an alarm is triggered without good reason, or a neighbour mistakes a smaller controlled fire for an emergency.

Since 2009, the service has attended more than 1,000 false alarms deemed to be of a malicious nature, although the service says it not possible to measure the exact cost of each callout.

The overall number of false alarms dealt with by RBFRS has risen since 2014 and nearly 400 calls of this nature have already been reported across Reading and Newbury this year.

A spokesman for RBFRS explained: "We have a robust call challenge policy in place to help reduce the number of malicious calls we respond to.

"Our highly trained operatives in Thames Valley Fire Control Service will challenge and ask the caller for more information where appropriate.

"It is important to stress that every emergency call has to be taken seriously and it is usually only upon attendance that we can determine if an incident is a false alarm.

"If people believe there is an incident, we would urge them to always report it by calling 999 and we will respond."

Callouts may also be categorised as a false alarm when fire crews are called to a ‘special services incidents’ which turn out to be malicious.

One special service call costs RBFRS £318, but these types of calls more less common than the statutory emergency incidents and the fire service does not recoup costs from regular emergency incidents.