For those of us who grew up on a diet of Fireman Sam, there were always plenty of incidents, like cats in trees, that needed his attention without a flame anywhere in sight.

In Hampshire, it turns out the same is now true, with firefighters called to more non-fire incidents than actual fires last year, figures reveal.

Non-fire incidents are classed as anything other than fires and false alarms, including flooding incidents, road traffic collisions, animal assistance as well as suicide attempts, people being stranded, trapped, impaled and dealing with hazardous substances among others.

The Fire Brigades Union said it has seen a surge in widespread flooding nationally, as crews “battle the sharp end of climate change”.

Home Office data shows Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service responded to 4,259 non-fire incidents in 2019-20.

That was higher the number of fires fought by crews over the period – 3,883.

Incidents not involving fires increased by 2% compared to 2018-19, the figures show, while fires fell by 12%.

Across England and Wales, fire crews responded to 172,000 incidents of this kind in 2019-20 – a 6% rise compared to 2018-19, and 12% compared to a decade ago.

Figures show the latest increase has been driven by crews attending more flooding and multi-agency incidents, which involve other emergency services.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “We have seen a significant increase in flooding incidents, likely linked to the mass flooding emergencies across the country over last winter.

“Widespread flooding in the last year and recent wildfires have shown that firefighters are battling the sharp end of climate change.

"Their work should be properly recognised with a statutory duty to respond to floods in England and the proper funding of their service."

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service was called to 15,247 incidents last year in total, with fires making up just 25% of these.

Nationally, crews responded to 557,299 callouts, a 3% drop compared to the previous year.

An agreement reached in March allowed firefighters to drive ambulances and deliver vital supplies to the elderly and vulnerable as the coronavirus crisis took hold.

It was extended in June, meaning such activity will continue until the end of September at the earliest.

Mr Wrack continued: "Firefighters have always taken on a range of non-fire work and can be proud of stepping up during the coronavirus pandemic, all while still responding to fires and other emergencies."