Home Office data shows that almost half of all incidents attended by the North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service in the year to September 2020 stemmed from false alarms.
Most were caused by faulty equipment or the accidental activation of smoke alarms and sprinkler systems.
Of the rest, 24% were raised by people with good intentions, while 93 ‘malicious’ incidents were linked to hoax calls or alarms being set off where there was no fire.
The National Fire Chiefs Council said false alarms happened “approximately every two minutes” across England and cost services thousands of hours of lost productivity – “time that could be spent on other vital, and often life-saving activities”.
In North Yorkshire, 46% of all calls attended over 12 months were false alarms, while more than 226,000 were logged nationally, including over 5,500 malicious incidents.
Almost two-thirds were due to fire alarms or related equipment malfunctioning or being accidentally set off.
Burnt toast or general cooking mishaps were behind almost a quarter of all false alarms, with more than 32,000 attributed to faulty smoke alarms and 177, bizarrely, linked to animals.
NFCC chair, Roy Wilsher, described the figures as shocking and said malicious callers could prevent crews from attending incidents where people were in serious danger.
He added: “People making these reckless calls need to ask themselves what would happen if a member of their family needed emergency assistance and firefighters were attending a malicious call. We need to see this change.”
A Home Office spokesperson warned hoaxers that they could face prosecution, adding: “Malicious false alarms take our firefighters away from front line work, protecting our communities and potentially saving lives.
“They can amount to a criminal offence and we support the prosecution of these incidents where appropriate.”