Firefighters at Lancing station have solved the case after taking up detective work following a series of hoax calls.
According to West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, the calls were all made from a single phone box on their patch.
A crew was called out just after midnight on the morning of Saturday, September 26 to reports of trees on fire in Croshaw Park, Lancing.
Two similar calls had been made earlier that night, just before midnight on the Friday.
Local firefighters say, in total, more than 20 similar calls had been made from the same number in recent months.
This time the crew got to the scene in time to see a group of youths running away. They followed them and found them hiding in a bin store at nearby flats, so made them wait in the area until police arrived.
Crew Commander Mark Burton said:
“It was a great team effort to get to the bottom of a long-running problem with false 999 calls being made from this area as hoax calls are illegal and can affect our response to real life-threatening emergencies.
“All of the calls reported trees or changing rooms on fire.
“We’d tried to catch those responsible several times but this was the first time we’d seen suspects running away.
“We followed them and found three youths hiding nearby, so made them wait with us until the police arrived to take them away.”
Mark was full of praise for his crew, who, as retained firefighters, often have other jobs but are alerted to incidents via a pager.
He said: “We’ve got a really good team at Lancing and I’m pleased we’ve managed to put a stop to these time-wasting calls.
“West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service uses a variety of methods to catch those responsible and will work with the police to support prosecutions.”