The north-east coastguard has warned people against misusing flares after a large search team was launched to investigate a distress signal that proved to be a false alarm.
Last night, officers from Fraserburgh, Peterhead and Banff as well as a duty coastal officer, the RNLI Fraserburgh Lifeboat and a rescue helicopter conducted a search after receiving reports of red flares.
Red handheld flares are internationally recognised as a maritime distress signal, warning that somebody is in serious trouble.
Posting on their Facebook page, HM Coastguard Aberdeen and Shire wrote: “We will always assume that someone is in distress if a flare is fired until we can prove otherwise.”
With the reports suggesting the signal came from the Fraserburgh Bay area, the team searched between Rosehearty and St Combs but found nothing.
Before long, it was worked out that the flares had in fact been fired from inland, and after further searches a pair of discarded casings were discovered.
The incident was taken as an opportunity by the coastguard to point out that using such flares for any reason other than to signify distress at sea is a criminal offence, and runs the risk of diverting resources away from other rescue efforts.
Anyone who sees a red flare or somebody in distress at sea or on the coast should dial 999 and request the coastguard.