TWO fire engines, nine crew and a police car were deployed to a town centre - to rescue three pigeons that were stuck on a roof.

The birds had become tangled in netting on top of a former decorating store in Spennymoor, County Durham, on Monday afternoon.

A passer-by called the RSPCA, but because they couldn't gain access to the shop roof the fire service was called. Crew from the first engine assessed the scene and requested an appliance with specialist equipment to aid the operation.

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The aerial ladder platform, also known as a cherry picker, blocked the road and a police car was called to help control the traffic.

Eventually, the firefighters used their bare hands to rescue the birds. Some of the town's residents questioned the response.

Jeweler John Welsh, 63, said: "I was shocked. At first I thought that there was a major fire.

"Two fire engines and a police car? For three pigeons?

"I am an animal lover to a certain degree, but pigeons are actually classed as vermin. Would you rescue a rat?"

Lynette Mackenzie added: "I thought it was a joke. They are only vermin.

"I would have shot them. There weren't as many fire engines here when the pub was on fire."

Neil Savage said: "It was disgraceful for three pigeons. The bus timetables were disrupted and the RSPCA were attending. It must have cost a fortune."

Dominic Brown, a group manager at County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, said the brigade attended because the RSPCA, which they often work alongside, called for backup as its animal welfare officers could not safely rescue the birds themselves.

Mr Brown said: “We have to take a wide view of an incident like this.

“If we don’t do anything there is a risk that a member of the public will attempt to rescue the birds, which were obviously distressed, without the equipment, awareness or training to do so safely and could end up injured or stuck.

“It might appear we have got everything out for one incident, but those crews were available anyway and if any other call came in they could be deployed.”

The RSPCA confirmed that the pigeons were all "unhurt and released straight away".