HALF of incidents attended by Wee County firefighters turned out to be false alarms as unwanted signals continue to put crews and the public at unnecessary risk.

Local Scottish Fire and Rescue Service chiefs were at Clackmannanshire Council’s Partnership and Performance Committee last Thursday, May 30, to highlight the issue alongside the work being done to keep communities safe.

Between April 2018 and September 2019, there were 109 occasions which saw firefighters race to the scene under blue lights, only to realise they were called to an unwanted fire alarm signal (UFAS) at non-domestic properties, triggered by automatic detection systems.

While the figure does represent a reduction of 16 from the year before, due to the work of liaison officers with system owners, area manager Roddie Keith told the council chamber that 50 per cent of incidents attended locally are still unnecessary.

That number was put at around 60 per cent in 2016, meaning there has been some improvement.

The report tabled at the local authority said: “UFAS incidents create a significant number of unnecessary blue light journeys, placing our firefighters and communities at risk, and tying up resources that may be needed at a real emergency elsewhere.

“To reduce the impact of UFAS, we have introduced a process that will ensure our weight and speed of response to UFAS incidents is based on risk.”

The high number of unwanted signals, the report revealing 21 of which came from schools, is due to more and more systems in place, but it is a “constant battle” to help owners manage their alarms.

Roddie’s report added that automatic systems were “fundamental” for early warnings, but must be properly installed and maintained.

Nothing will underscore the road risk posed more than the death of Alloa Fire Station watch manager John Noble in 2008, who tragically died when an appliance, attending a false alarm, came off the road and collided with a tree.

A fatal accident inquiry the next year concluded the crash, during a blue light journey, happened due to a fresh diesel spill combined with other unfortunate factors on the A91 Dollar bends.

Gone, but not forgotten, the husband and father of two is remembered around the Wee County.

There are two plaques in his memory at Alloa Fire Station and there is a Johnny’s Garden in the back, featuring a bench and a stone memorial statue.

The intrepid duo of firefighter Kris Elliot and his engineer brother Blair also rowed across the Atlantic for charity in his name last year.

And most recently, a red plaque was unveiled in his name at Strathdevon Primary School, where the false alarm went off before John’s fire engine careered off the road.