AN EMERGENCY service has charged thousands of pounds for responding to call-outs in the last three years.

In 35 incidents, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue made £14,169 between 2012 and 2014 after pet owners and residents requested the help of firefighters.

Seventeen incidents in York, 14 of which involved people being rescued from a lift, produced a bill of £4,909.30, the highest in the county.

The second largest charge saw a Malton crew clear up a road in the town for £3,359.66 while incidents in Scarborough totalled £1,867.27 Humberside Fire and Rescue Service do not charge for attending incidents.

The introduction of charges followed a change in the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 allowing fire authorities more freedom to charge.

However, Steve Howley, Fire Brigade Union Secretary, said the service is wrong to bill people who need help.

He said: "I don’t think it’s right we charge people.

“We are a service to the taxpayer and it’s a time of austerity when the fire service is looking at severe cuts to the frontline.

“There’s still excessive amounts of waste in the fire service, however, not on the frontline where it is being stripped to the bone.

“If there’s a call that is deemed to be rendering humanitarian services like rescuing people or animals then there shouldn’t be a charge because that’s our duty and it’s what people pay their council tax for.”

Sarah Woodcock, a spokeswoman for North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: "Currently North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service charge for the following services, in some circumstances, for example, releasing people stuck in lifts, removing unsafe chimney pots where there is no immediate risk to life, pumping water from flooded premises, providing fire cover at large public events, small animal rescues and people locked out of their house.

"Monies received from special service charges are classed as general income of the Authority which form part of its net revenue budget each year.

"From April 2015 the service will cease charging for humanitarian special service calls of a non-emergency nature where the aim is to protect and support public safety and wellbeing.