FIREFIGHTERS last night warned emergencies should be reported by calling 999 – and not by emailing the control room.

It came after a passer-by reported a fire in a row of garages by sending an email to Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.

The message was not picked up until the next day, although firefighters said several other people had already called 999 and the blaze was put out quickly.

A spokesman for Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service said the fire at the row of garages in Banbury broke out on the evening of Wednesday, May 22.

But the following morning headquarters administrative staff arrived at work to find an email alerting them about the blaze in the general mail inbox.

It had been sent by a member of the public five minutes before the first 999 call was received.

Station manager David Bray, incident commander for the fire, said: “While we live in an age where technology is key, and social media forms such a large part of our everyday lives, at present, the only way to alert the Fire and Rescue Service is to dial the known emergency numbers such as 999 or 112.

“To have had an email that landed five minutes before the first 999 call, in this case, fortunately did not have any major repercussions as no life was in danger.

“However, if this had been a house fire or a road traffic collision where people were trapped and in need of rescue, those five minutes would be extremely significant.”