FIREFIGHTERS are to stop attending many emergency call-outs, in a move branded "pure madness" by trade union officials.

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is consulting on plans to stop sending firefighters to automatic fire alarms (AFAs) between 8am and 6pm at premises where people do not sleep unless a fire has been confirmed. Currently, one fire engine attends such calls.

AFAs at premises where people sleep or which are a higher risk will be attended by only one crew, rather than the current two, and where repeated false alarms have been received at a building and the people responsible have been warned, crews may not attend.

In the past year, fire crews have attended more than 1,900 AFA calls that turned out to be false alarms, accounting for about 24 per cent of all incidents.

Steve Howley, secretary for the Fire Brigades Union, said management should consider how the proposals could affect insurance premiums and council tax for affected businesses, and whether it would be liable for losses caused by delayed response.

He said: "These proposals are pure madness and a recipe for disaster. A fire alarm is designed to detect fires and give early warning for people to leave the building, and for the fire service to attend quickly minimising the effects of fire in damage to property and loss of life. To simply ignore these systems and not respond unless a fire has been confirmed by a member of the public is crazy and dangerous.

"It would seem the service want to punish businesses that have had a number of false alarms by not attending any future alarms. This time maybe the call is real, as such is just playing with public safety, putting lives and property at greater risk."

Mr Howley said high risk properties, where there is more chance of a fire going undetected longer at night, included hospitals, hotels and care homes, and the changes were "playing with public and firefighter safety".

He said: "Every fire at a hospital or a care home in the past started off as an AFA."

Changes have also been proposed to special service calls such as traffic collisions, pumping flooded buildings, rescuing trapped animals or birds, and making buildings safe, which can currently be charged for - the consultation proposes scrapping charges for non-emergency special service calls, "where the aim is to protect and support public safety and wellbeing".

The consultation is open until September 5 at under the ‘IRMP Proposals’ link.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story said the changes to AFA responses would be overnight, not during the day.