Blackpool Tower fire: Five other times people were fooled by false alarms

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By Andre Rhoden-Paul
BBC News

Things are not always what they seem. And there is no better example of that old adage than Blackpool Tower and the fire that never was.

On Thursday, six fire engines, a drone team and a rope-rescue team gathered at the famous landmark tower built more than 100 years ago.

News teams had sent out their breaking news alerts. Social media videos were rapidly notching up views.

That was until police flying over the tower in a helicopter declared “there is no fire”.

The flames, it turned out, were in fact orange netting flapping about in the wind, leaving some red faces and quite possibly a mini-surge in opticians’ bookings.

Here, we revisit five more occasions when we gasped a collective “whoops!”.

Officers acknowledged the vegetable medley did look like part of a human foot

It was like the opening of a BBC crime drama – a dog walker in Gateshead found what appeared to be a human toe sticking out of a muddy field.

The discovery in January 2021 led to a search by officers and specialists dogs, only for it to be confirmed the suspected foot was actually a potato with a mushroom growing next to it.

Insp Phil Hamlani said at the time: “The search team did have a chuckle when they realised it was a potato, but the call was made in good faith and we can only praise the vigilance of the woman who made the call.”

‘Ritual mass murder’

The yoga room was dark and lit with candles

One September night this year, two dog walkers peered through a window into a dark cafe to see bodies lying on the ground covered with blankets surrounded by candles and a mysterious person in a robe walking between them.

Convinced they had stumbled on a “ritual mass murder”, the pair called the police.

Officers rushed to the cafe in St Leonards, Lincolnshire, only to find a yoga class in session.

Instructor Millie Laws later said: “I guess from the outside view it could look like that [a mass murder], because they’re all really still, very nice and relaxed.

“I’m sure their imagination was running wild with what was going on.”

Tiger on the loose

“Did I just see a tiger?” That’s the question residents were asking themselves after spotting a big cat in a garden.

But when Great Manchester Police arrived at the home in Oldham last year, there was no need for alarm. The escaped tiger turned out to be a soft toy, which police later nicknamed Tony.

Zoo vets had their tranquiliser darts at the ready… for a big stuffed toy

In 2011, a similar tiger sighting caused a frenzy with police sending out a helicopter to a field near the M27 in Hampshire.

Such was the concern over the escaped white tiger, play stopped at a cricket ground and animal specialists at nearby Marwell Zoo were prepared to send in a team with tranquiliser darts.

But when the helicopter arrived and blew over the tiger, it became quickly clear it was just a stuffed toy.

The “bone-chilling” discovery was reported to police

Earlier this year, a concerned member of the public called the police after finding what they thought was a pile of human bones in a bush in their Derbyshire garden.

On closer inspection by police officers though, it turned out to be a toy skeleton model of Captain Hook, complete with a hook for a hand and the remains of his trusty parrot.

Police said at the time, the call was made in good faith and officers left the toy to be disposed of by the homeowner.

‘Dummy bomb at Old Trafford’

Bomb disposal experts arriving at 75,000-capacity Old Trafford

Everyone can make mistakes, but some are more costly than others.

A match at Manchester United’s Old Trafford was abandoned and thousands of supporters evacuated after the discovery of a “incredibly lifelike explosive device” in a toilet block in 2016.

In a super-sized blunder, a security firm conducting a training session had left a dummy bomb in the stadium.

At the time Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd described the mistake as a “fiasco”.

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