FIRE BRIGADES in central Victoria say hoax phone calls are dragging firefighters away from genuine fire risks, and have warned offenders will be tracked down and penalised.
The message comes as the CFA said it had been investigating false reports of bushfires spread on social media sites.
A CFA spokeswoman said there were several instances where people had published misleading details about fires, creating a number of panicked calls.
Bendigo CFA operations officer Craig Brittain said although there was incorrect information written online, hoax phone calls were a more pressing concern.
“Quite often we get children making hoax calls, and at times, adult callers,” he said. “All those telephone calls are traced and recorded. We give those details to police.”
Mr Brittain said firefighters were called all across the region to fires that didn’t exist.
“Quite often they’ll ring up with scant details, we’ll still go and inspect that.
“What it means is we’re sending resources out under emergency conditions with their sirens on.
“It puts road users at risk and quite often that’s unnecessary.”
Mr Brittain said people needed to be aware that hoax calls were illegal and that any phone call was easily traceable.
“We’ve had a number of people charged over recent years for hoax calls,” he said.
“It’s not only that, it’s also tying up resources unnecessarily.
“Especially when you tie up volunteers’ time, they’ve got to leave their residence or work. It’s just wasting their time.”
Mr Brittain said ill-informed online reports of fires had created uncertainty and that people should confirm any information through the CFA website.
“Facebook and social media can be great for passing on timely and relevant information, but at the same time people need to be careful.”