FIRE engines made almost 7,000 fewer journeys in six months after controversial changes were brought in.

West Yorkshire fire chiefs decided to cut the number of appliances attending automatic fire alarms to just one last spring - a move condemned by the Fire Brigades' Union.

They also worked with owners of buildings which had consistent false fire alarm problems and have now unveiled the figures.

Before April last year several fire engines - often three - attended alarms at large buildings such as offices and schools.

That policy changed on April 1, 2004, and from that date to November 30, 6,812 appliances responded to more than 6,000 daytime automatic fire alarms.

The old predetermined number responded at night. If the old system had still been operating, 12,983 appliances would have responded to the daytime calls.

Less than 2% of the daytime automatic fire alarms were triggered by flames or smoke.

If people phone in to say there is a fire, the larger predetermined response of fire engines turn out.

Now fire chiefs plan to reduce the number of appliances responding to these types of calls at night from three to two in a bid to reduce the turnouts even more.

Two fire engines are still always sent to house fires day or night.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service deputy chief fire officer Kevin Arbuthnot said: "By saving over 6,000 totally unnecessary mobilisations, we have been able to devote more time to life-saving fire safety work in the community."

He also said that making fewer journeys also reduced the risk on the county's roads with fire engines rushing to automatic fire alarms which usually turned out to be false alarms.