Gosport and Fareham Inshore Rescue Service (Gafirs) sent both of its lifeboats to Portsmouth Harbour at 5pm on Sunday, after receiving a number of reports of a red flare being fired.
Hill Head Coastguard Rescue Team, which also joined the search, found evidence suggesting that the flare was fired from the shore in Hardway in Gosport – the same place where yobs recently vandalised the D-Day war memorial and caused chaos for residents and police.
Jake Robinson, community director for Gafirs, has voiced his frustration at his crew’s time being wasted by the hoax.
He said: ‘When you deploy a red flare, you are declaring that you are in "grave and imminent danger requiring immediate assistance" – we would urge the public to treat flares with the respect they deserve and only use them if the above statement is true.
‘This launch used up vital resources from our volunteer service and others’ time.
‘It costs considerable money to launch our lifeboats and as we are not part of the RNLI this uses up vital funding that we work hard to raise.’
The Sunday morning launch was the 67th this year from Gafris, which is an independent lifeboat service run by volunteers.