OWNERS of commercial premises across Keighley are being warned that firefighters will no longer respond to automatic fire alarms – unless a 999 call is also received.

Currently, crews turn out whenever an automatic fire alarm – or AFA – activates at buildings such as shops, factories and leisure facilities.

But West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service says that over the past five years, AFA false alarms have accounted for about 30 per cent of all its operational activity.

And less than two per cent of AFAs resulted in a fire being discovered on attendance.

The brigade says the callout changes – which come into force on March 18 – will save “thousands of hours” that can instead be devoted to community fire prevention work and operational training, plus fire engines which may have been tied up attending AFAs will be available to provide cover at other incidents.

Bosses add that places such as hospitals and care homes, and sites including educational facilities, heritage buildings and chemical factories, will still receive an automatic response.

West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service district commander Benjy Bush, project manager for the changes, says: "This update to our response will be a wholly positive thing for communities.

"We are spending thousands of hours, and thousands of pounds, attending these incidents where on many occasions poorly maintained alarms or accidental triggers are the cause. Such callouts tie up our resources for significant periods of time. These hours and this money could be far better spent protecting West Yorkshire’s communities, so we’re bringing ourselves in line with other fire and rescue services across the country and stopping attending AFAs in certain buildings, without secondary confirmation of a fire.

"That basically means our control room operators will ask for confirmation of an actual fire, or signs of fire such as the smell of smoke or sight of flames, before they will deploy a crew.

"To assist people who are responsible for buildings, we have plenty of advice on our website about how to best maintain and manage your alarms. This guidance should greatly minimise the likelihood of a false alarm.

"We must balance our operational resources with getting the taxpayer value for money, whilst keeping the public completely safe – and these changes will improve the efficiency of the service."

For further information about the changes to AFAs, visit westyorksfire.gov.uk/changes-automatic-fire-alarm-afa-responses-west-yorkshire-fire-and-rescue-service

Also, queries can be emailed to afaresponse@westyorksfire.gov.uk