An RNLI crew has warned against setting off flares when there is no emergency, after it was called out on Christmas Day for the first time in living memory.
Whitby’s all-weather lifeboat launched on Sunday after two members of its team spotted a red flare above the North Yorkshire town’s harbour.
The RNLI charity said the crew’s youngest volunteer, Andy Brighton, had been walking along Church Street when he noticed the pyrotechnic.
Coxswain Howard Fields – who was on annual leave – also saw the flare from his window, and both called the coastguard.
A lifeboat launch was immediately requested, with the inshore lifeboat crew searching the harbour area.
But, the organisation said, due to strong winds, the all-weather lifeboat was launched to be “absolutely certain” there wasn’t a vessel in distress at sea.
While volunteers are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, Whitby RNLI said it could not recall ever having a call on Christmas Day in living memory.
After crews undertook a search outside the pier ends, they were stood down and returned to the station for debriefing.
“If you spot a distress flare you’re back on duty in an instant,” said Fields.
“We think that it had possibly been let off as a celebration rather than in distress. We would like to remind people to only use red flares in an emergency.”
He also thanked the RNLI volunteers “who leave their family celebrations at a moment’s notice” to attend to calls.
Festive celebrations were also put on hold for volunteers in Rhyl, north Wales, when they were called to a report of a possible kayak in difficulty.
A member of the public called 999 at 1.43pm on Sunday, which was redirected to the coastguard in Holyhead.
Within seven minutes, the inshore lifeboat was launched to investigate the possible incident off Pensarn beach in Abergele.
The RNLI said the report was also a false alarm, with the crew instead finding a large part of a tree with a branch sticking out of the water, “looking like a hand”.
Coxswain Martin Jones, of the Rhyl lifeboat crew, said: “We would rather launch and find things such as this tree, rather than not be called to a genuine incident.”