CREWS in Dorset and Wiltshire were called to more incidents involving stuck objects and stranded animals last year, despite an overall fall in callouts amid the coronavirus pandemic, figures show.

Home Office data shows 318 such calls were made to the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service in the year to March – 22 more than the year before.

They included 182 calls to help animals who found themselves in trouble and 136 callouts to remove objects from people.

Across England the number of times firefighters were drafted in to help animals increased from 4,724 to 5,159 over the year.

The most common reason was to help a trapped pet, which was quoted in a fifth of incidents attended nationally, closely followed by rescuing pets from a height.

Group manager Charlie Pack at Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “For large animal rescues, people should ring 999 and ask for the fire service if there is a life risk. For smaller animals or birds, we would urge anyone who feels a rescue is needed to contact the RSPCA in the first instance. We work in partnership with them and they will ask us to attend incidents where our knowledge or experience is needed.

“We know that seeing an animal or bird in distress is very upsetting, and our interventions are usually made to prevent the animal’s owner or a member of the public from putting themselves in danger.”

The number of people requiring help with stuck objects also increased nationally from 5,311 to 5,632.

Two-thirds of incidents saw someone needing help removing a ring, while trapped limbs accounted for 16 per cent of calls.

Overall, Dorset and Wiltshire firefighters attended 13,212 incidents in 2020-21 – including 3,358 fires – down from 14,038 the year before.

They included 3,647 non-fire related incidents, which may be related to flooding, assisting people trapped in lifts and road traffic accidents.

The National Fire Chief's Council said a drop in the number of incidents nationally, from 558,000 to 518,000, was to be seen in the context of the restrictions brought in during the pandemic.

Chairman Mark Hardingham said: “Despite the huge amount of positive and proactive work carried out nationally and locally, incidents, and sometimes very serious incidents, do still happen.

"It is of critical importance that we maintain a well-resourced fire and rescue service to respond professionally and safely to national and local emergencies."