Fire? I'm sorry, all our crews have gone to the match...

When lowly Ross County took on the might of Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final on Saturday, 7,000 County fans travelled to Hampden Park in Glasgow to support their team – more than the entire population of the highland town of Dingwall, where the First Division side play their home matches.

When their 89th-minute goal dumped Celtic out of the competition and fired the "Staggies" into their first cup final, the fans understandably went a little bit crazy, and the celebrations went on long into the night.

Meanwhile, back in Dingwall, the town was all but deserted – so much so that the local fire service is investigating a complaint that it was left understaffed because several firefighters abandoned their posts and took themselves off to the match.

The Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service said a member of the public had complained about the availability of fire cover from Dingwall on the day – even though no fires were reported. David Wynne, the Chief Fire Officer, said: "The service is carrying out an investigation into this complaint. I expect all Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service fire stations and their fire appliances to be available for operational duty at all times." Dingwall's "retained" fire station is manned by volunteer crews, as is every station in the area apart from Inverness. Retained stations generally have a complement of 12 or 20 firefighters to crew one or two appliances. Each engine requires a minimum of four qualified staff to operate it.

Mr Wynne said: "In order to assist personnel on the retained duty system to manage their own availability, and consequently the availability of their fire appliances, the service utilises a computerised availability monitoring system to ensure that fire appliances can be called upon whenever the need should arise. Where shortfalls are reported actions are taken, whenever practicable, to provide alternative fire cover arrangements."

The footballing loyalties of the complainant have not been released, but of course it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Dingwall, a town of 5,000 people, contains at least one partisan Celtic fan. Margaret Davidson, a Dingwall councillor and member of the fire authority, said the volunteer firefighters were dedicated to their jobs. She said she believed they would have gone through the proper channels so that cover was provided.

Ross County face Dundee United in the final on 15 May, which will be the biggest day in the club's 81-year history. Dingwall will again be a ghost town, apart from the poor unfortunates left to man its fire engines.

Comments