EVERY second counts for firefighters responding to emergency calls.

That's the message from Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service after crews alerted to an incident down narrow roads early yesterday were blocked by poorly parked vehicles.

Firefighters ended up banging on doors to wake residents up in a bid to get cars shifted, a resident said.

Fire chiefs have again warned residents to think before they park as delays to firefighters could have "serious, life-threatening consequences".

Firefighters were called to smoke detectors sounding at a property in Henry Close, Wyke Regis, just after midnight. Upon arrival, crews were unable to make contact with the occupier. After conducting an investigation which concluded there was no fire the occupier returned.

Although it was a false alarm, it is warned that it could have been worse and that time is of the essence for crews.

The fire service said on the way to this incident, one crew had to stop and reverse out of a residential street – Hillcrest Road – as parked cars blocked the route. On the way back from the call, the second crew suffered the same problem.

Group Manager Richard Coleman, of Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “In an emergency, every second that our crews are delayed could have serious, life-threatening consequences. Our smallest appliance needs a minimum of three metres, or the width of two cars, to pass safely, so poor or inconsiderate parking, even if only for a few minutes, can be dangerous.

"We would urge all drivers to really think about where they park and the potential impact on them, their loved ones and others if the worst happens.”

A resident who saw what happened: "It's obviously very worrying, the firefighters were essentially blocked due to cars blocking the road.

"If they can't get to you, they can't save you or your family or your property. A person could die because of selfish drivers who can't be bothered to find a safer place to park and walk a few hundred yards.

"My daughter said they ended up banging on doors to get people out of bed to move their cars and a lot of people were rushing around moving cars and panicking but the fire engine reversed and went up the other end."

Cllr Ryan Hope has previously spoken about the issues parking causes to emergency vehicles.

He said: "It's a concern, parking as a whole. The issue is a lot of these estates were built when people were lucky to have one car per family. Now there could be three or four cars per household.

"People need to think about parking considerately to make sure emergency vehicles can get past."

Fire service advice to motorists

* Pull in your wing mirrors (don’t forget to flip them out before driving off)

* Don’t park too close to corners, fire engines are larger than cars and need more room to turn

* If you’re parking opposite someone, remember that a fire engine needs 3m, or two car widths, to pass safely

* Make sure your wheels are straight and not sticking out

* Park as close to the kerb as you can

* Always follow the Highway Code and obey the road markings such as yellow lines and box junctions

* In narrow streets, only park on one side of the road where possible

* Make sure you leave enough space for pedestrians on the pavement

* Don’t block driveways