HOAX calls made from Gwent to the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service fell by almost a third last year compared to 2012/13.

But service chiefs are adamant that more must be done to drive down the numbers still further, and that the public has a major part to play.

There were 338 hoax fire calls in Gwent during 2013/14, against 497 in 2012/13, a 32 per cent reduction, and across South Wales, the reduction last year was 31 per cent, with a regional total of 1,194 hoax calls made.

In Blaenau Gwent and Monmouthshire there were 43 per cent reductions in hoax calls, and in Newport and Torfaen 39 per cent reductions, though the fall in Caerphilly county borough was a more modest 8.5 per cent.

The service has attributed the fall to its proactive approach to the issue, and successful campaigns carried out to alert the public.

No figure has been put on the cost to the service of hoax calls last year, but Jennie Griffiths, head of fire control, said: “Malicious callers are not only an enormous drain on resources but their thoughtless behaviour endangers the lives and safety of the public.

“Firefighters must respond to every emergency call that is made. If they arrive at an address and find out that it’s a hoax, it may delay them from attending a serious emergency incident, where they may be needed to rescue someone trapped in a house fire or road traffic collision. It might even be someone you know.“

A current initiative is urging people, considering making a hoax fire call, to stop and think that:

l Each call requires one, sometimes two fire appliances to be mobilised, each with fire crews.

l Each hoax call costs a great deal of time and consumes valuable resources - this is a waste of public funds.

l Most importantly, making hoax calls costs lives.

There is also the threat of prosecution for those making such calls.

“It is illegal to make a hoax emergency call. If caught and prosecuted, these individuals may face a fine of up to £5,000 or six months in prison. They could also have their phones cut off,” said Dewi Jones, head of the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service fire crime unit.

“Due to the successful campaigns we have run over recent years, we have seen a reduction in the number of hoax calls. However, we still receive an unacceptable number of malicious calls.”