FIREFIGHTERS were forced to take a diversion when they answered a real 999 call as they toured Malmesbury investigating streets blocked by badly parked cars.

Drivers were made to move their cars and one was fined during a fire engine tour prompted by residents’ fears that the brigade could be delayed or even prevented from reaching emergencies in some of the town’s most congested streets.

Sgt Martin Alvis, from Malmesbury Police, who accompanied the crew on Sunday morning, said: “As we were dealing with one car, the crew received a shout and were forced to take another route, extending the journey time. Thankfully all was in order but that extra time could have had a negative impact on the end result.”

Roads including Burnivale and Burnham Road were examined and at several points the crew had to inch the truck past cars parked too close to junctions or on very narrow stretches of road.

Watch manager Chris Harvey said local people had approached the firefighters on social media or in person with their concerns.

He explained they had been able to reach every location, “however this was not without its challenges and at certain locations alternative routes had to be sought for access and in other places the gaps were so small that the fire engine had to be marshalled through the gaps at a less than walking pace.

“Had we been responding to an incident at these locations then the vehicles that were causing the problems would have significantly impacted our response times.”

He warned: “What I can say and I know the crew will support me on this - if moving or damaging a vehicle was to be the deciding factor in saving lives then the vehicle will be dealt with in whatever manner it takes.

“Saving lives is why we do the job, saving property is nice and something we aim for, but life always takes priority.”

Sgt Alvis added: “The work that the fire service carry out in extremely challenging and often dangerous circumstances should be commended. I ask that motorists really take time to look and see where they park. “