Attacks on firefighters on the increase - NFCC warns we could see an increase in the run up to Bonfire Night.
More than 930 firefighters in England were attacked while on duty in the last 12 months – an increase of 4 per cent.
Since 2015, there have been more than 3,800 reported firefighter attacks across the UK.
And the National Fire Chiefs Council has warned there could be an increase as we draw closer to the bonfire night period. Almost 18 per cent of attacks are recorded during this time - NFCC is urging the public to report anyone carrying out these mindless attacks.
NFCC has also called for stronger sentences to be handed down for anyone attacking an emergency service worker.
Merseyside, West Yorkshire and Manchester fire services have reported recent attacks on firefighters in recent days. In Manchester, a BB gun was fired at two fire engines and crews as firefighters attempted to extinguish multiple fires in wheelie bins in the area.
In Merseyside, firefighters had fireworks thrown at them by a 20-strong group of youths while they tried to extinguish wheelie bins fires which had been deliberately set alight. While in West Yorkshire, a group of ten to 15 youngsters pelted firefighters with fireworks.
NFCC Chair, Mark Hardingham, said: “I never fail to be shocked when I see the high numbers of firefighters who are attacked while doing their best to protect lives and property. It is nothing short of disgraceful that people are attacking emergency service workers who want nothing more than to protect the communities they serve and keep them safe.
“While we see these attacks all year round, we do see an increase around bonfire night, which coincides with an increase in callouts for fire services across the entire UK.
“These attacks not only have a severe impact on crews involved, but can take fire appliances off the road, leaving communities and people at risk - who may have a life-threatening emergency.”
Scottish Fire & Rescue Service has reported a 19 per cent increase in attacks last year, rising by ten to 63. Last year, there were 12 attacks alone on bonfire night in Scotland.
And in Northern Ireland earlier this year a firefighter was injured after a glass bottle was thrown at him, resulting in cuts to his face, His colleagues were also targeted and they were forced to withdraw as they attempted to fight a fire.
Mid and West Wales Fire & Rescue Service reported 42 attacks during the last year – including missiles being thrown at vehicles - and have had to call for police back up on several occasions. While South Wales saw 18 attacks - 50 per cent of these were around bonfire night.
Chris Lowther, Chair of NFCC’s Operations Committee and Chief Fire Officer for Tyne and Wear, echoed the call for the courts to hand out the maximum custodial sentences available.
He said: “To see an increase in firefighter attacks is abhorrent; these are people doing their utmost to protect communities and ultimately saving lives.
“Jail sentences for attacks on emergency services workers are very rare and this needs to change. I want to see custodial sentences handed out. Emergency services staff must be treated with the respect they deserve; blue light services are here to keep people safe.”
Mr Lowther confirmed in parts of Tyne and Wear there are occasions where firefighters cannot attend a secondary fire – a small outdoor fire or a fire on grassland or derelict buildings – without police in attendance.
NFCC is also an advocate for the use of body worn cameras, which capture vital evidence which can be used in prosecutions to bring people to justice.
- The latest Home Office statistics show attacks on firefighters in England rose to 934 attacks in the last year up from 899.
- 18 per cent of these attacks involved objects being thrown at firefighters or appliances (167 incidents).
- Attacks resulted in 54 injuries.