Richmond fire investigators looking for child who made prank call

By Tara Morgan - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A little boy pulls a fast one on Richmond firefighters, but they're not laughing. A prank call about an apartment fire is now under investigation and they want to find the young caller.

The boy called 911 twice Tuesday morning. He first claimed he saw flames at his apartment. Then reportedly called back and said he was joking. But that was after firefighters from Richmond and Chesterfield left the fire station to see what they were up against.

All fire calls are treated as the real deal. But too often, Richmond firefighters are faced with pranks, between 80 and 100 a year. The one Tuesday morning brought crews to Grey Birch Drive at the Blue Ridge Estates Apartments in south Richmond.

"We knew it was children on the phone however we can't take the chance of not responding," said Richmond Fire Marshall David Creasy.

But no fire. The danger in a prank: firefighters could be taken away from where their help is really needed. A point Venus Halbert, who lives at the complex, tried to get across to her two grandchildren.

"Would you do that? No," said Halbert to her six year old grandson.

Halbert saw the fire trucks.

"I was wondering, 'I hope no one was hurt,'" said Halbert.

Creasy said a prank not only puts firefighters and others at risk for injury but can lead to serious consequences for the caller.

"Not that someone who calls in a false alarm is going to jail, but they're certainly susceptible to restitution for the cost of our response," said Creasy.

At least five trucks roll out for an apartment fire with 20 to 25 firefighters on board. The cost for such a call could surpass a thousand dollars. In this case, Creasy said investigators simply want to talk to the boy and his parents.

"We want a lesson learned, so it doesn't happen again," said Creasy.

A conversation, Halbert had with her grand kids.

"It's very important to let your children know 911 is a serious number," said Halbert.

Fortunately in this case, there were no other emergency calls for those firefighters during that prank call.

Calling in a false alarm is a misdemeanor that carries a punishment of a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Copyright 2010 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.