England

Fire service starts charges for non-emergency call-outs

Fire engine
Image caption West Midlands Fire Service said it had to prioritise "genuine emergencies"

West Midlands Fire Service has started charging for call-outs to non-emergency incidents.

Anyone requesting help with problems like animal rescues and lock outs will now be told they will have to cover the call-out and attendance costs.

This is currently £412.80, including VAT, per fire appliance or specialist vehicle per hour, the service said.

Fire authorities have more freedom to charge after a revision in the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 in February.

West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) said other common non-emergency incidents which crews attend include clearance of debris and the removal of flood water.

'Not funded'

Usually, it said, such incidents should be handled by the appropriate service provider, tradesman or landlord.

A fire service spokesman said it would now challenge requests for non-emergency assistance and outline the approximate cost of attendance, before asking the customer to confirm if they wished to proceed.

Watch Commander Wesley Williams, from WMFS' Emergency Response Team, said: "We must ensure that genuine emergencies, which require the use of our specialist resources, receive a priority response.

"People call 999 and ask us to attend incidents when there is clearly no emergency, risk of danger, or threat to life, and we are not explicitly funded to do this."

The service covers all seven local authority boroughs in the West Midlands - Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton.

Chief Fire Officer Vij Randeniya said: "We have made no secret of the financial difficulties we are currently facing and with potential funding cuts of up to £30 million, it is clear we have to prioritise our resources."

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