‘HOAX calls waste our time, costs the public money and, more worryingly, really do put lives at risk.’

That’s the message from Hampshire Fire and Rescue service after Michael Eames was sent to prison for making 17 hoax calls in just three hours falsely reporting fires in the county.

In one instance, this included pretending someone was trapped in a burning building.

During the calls, Eames, 23, would use different names, addresses, scenarios and even potential victims every time.

Eames was sentenced to 12 weeks behind bars and a two-year restraining order.

In recordings of Eames’ calls to the emergency services he gloats: “I won’t get arrested, I promise you.”

Another call claimed a fish tank was broken and had made the floor wet.

Allison Burrows, the forces station manager of control, said: “Hoax calls waste our time, costs the public money and, more worryingly, really do put lives at risk. We hope the recordings help show this.

“I am extremely proud of the team for the rigorous yet professional way they exposed the caller with a series of challenging questions until he hung up.

“On further calls they tried to explain the seriousness of his actions and the potential life-threatening consequences while also urging him to get support for himself.”

Eames’ reign of hoax calls were carried out between Christmas Eve and January 4

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority Chairman Councillor Chris Carter added: “People calling in with false reports need to consider how they would feel if someone delayed firefighters getting to them or their loved ones.

“If that is not enough motivation to stop offenders maybe the prospect of going to prison and having their phone cut off will be.”

Councillor Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council, said: "I am very pleased to see hoaxers being put behind bars where they belong. It is a vile crime to call the emergency services to non-existent incidents while someone could be dying elsewhere in an incident which is all too real. The emergency services have a hard enough job as it is without this sort of reckless behaviour."

The appeal comes after figures show hoax calls to the fire service going up by more than 60 percent in the past four years.

Figures made in a Freedom of Information request to Hampshire Fire and Rescue service showed that in 2014 the service received 183 hoax calls.

However, this number had increased to 295 by 2017.

Tory MP for Southampton Itchen, Royston Smith, said: “It is troubling to learn that the number of hoax calls to Hampshire Fire and Rescue has increased.

“With the addition of non emergency lines in recent years, it is absolutely crucial that 999 is kept clear for emergencies. It may be a number we are all familiar with, however any delay for someone in need of emergency assistance can mean the difference between life and death.”