A report released today [15 Sept] has highlighted the pressure put on the London Fire Brigade during the riots, saying they were battling one fire every nine minutes for five consecutive days from 6th-10th August.

Members of the brigade also had to endure physical attacks from rioters with one firefighter sustaining sustaining cuts to the face after bricks were thrown through the windscreen of his fire engine.

Councillor Brian Coleman, Chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, which commissioned the report, said:

"During the civil disturbances, the London Fire Brigade faced its toughest ever test but showed itself to be more than up to the job, tackling an astonishing number of fires despite facing physical and verbal attacks."

However, the report has drawn criticism for its claim that, despite having to deal with more than 800 fires over five days, sufficient staff and fire engines were always available to deal with the disturbances.

The Fire Brigade Union's secretary for London, Joe MacVeigh, said: 'There is no doubt that our members performed admirably during the riots, and everyone will be grateful for their heroic efforts.

"They are men and women of extraordinary dedication and courage, but as a whole, the brigade was beyond breaking point, and it serves no-one for reports to be published which give a false representation of the situation."

Firefighters had to attend 263 fires on one day alone, with the brigade's 999 control staff handling a call every 48 seconds on average, increasing to a call every 11 seconds during the busiest hour of 11-midnight on August 8th. 

MacVeigh continued: "There is no shame in admitting that resources were stretched. We know that these events were unprecedented, and it would be unreasonable to expect there not to be pressure on the service. So the brigade should be honest with people about the true picture, if only to ensure that lessons can be learned to ensure a better response in the future.

"Publishing one-sided, self-congratulating and disingenuous reports is neither in the interests of Londoners nor firefighters who too often during the riots were exposed to real dangers because of a lack of resources."

The Union says it will shortly publish its own report in which it will detail the problems firefighters faced when pushed to breaking point including incidences where undersized crews were sent to tackle fires, calls went unanswered at the main control centre until Surrey Fire Service could cover and non-threatening fires were left to burn out to save on resources for major incidents.