The shocking level of violence which spread across the capital on a third consecutive night of rioting has left the country reeling and has placed firefighters in the cross-fire. As well as the numerous car fires in Lewisham and Peckham, the large sofa factory fire in Croydon soaked up firefighting resources. Most disturbing is that firefighters were targeted as they responded to the blazes.
Chairman and Leader of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, Cllr Brian Coleman, said: "It is absolutely outrageous though that three of our fire engines came under attack and had to be taken off the road, making them unavailable for emergencies. There is simply no excuse for this abhorrent behaviour which endangers the lives of firefighters and also the people they are trying to protect."
The rioting has spread through the use of social networking in a way that has never been seen before - a virus that has blighted the streets of the capital and is spreading around the country. As the Prime Minister chairs an emergency meeting of COBRA to discuss the riots, many commentators are urging military intervention as police forces struggle to tackle the widespread violence.
The thought of drafting in the military to tackle civilian unrest fills me with a sense of dread - the Troubles inNorthern Irelandlive all too vivid in the memory. However, foremost in my thoughts is the safety of firefighters, and indeed all frontline responders, as they face unprecedented levels of violence. That troublemakers are being closely monitored offers little comfort as the bricks and bottles rain down.
There is a growing sense of outrage from the communities that have found themselves under attack from their own residents. Shop owners and residents are disgusted at the thuggery of rioters as their businesses are attacked and in some cases burned to the ground. Whilst there is little that can be done at the moment, in the coming days and weeks community leaders will work with police and emergency responders to ensure such scenes will not be repeated.
There is no easy solution as the speed with which these violent scenes have been replicated across the country has surprised many. With the viral spread of social networking it should come as no surprise at all. The emergency services may be playing catch-up with this societal sore, but this is an aberration and not a permanent blight. With the collective will to defeat moronic behaviour in all its forms, the streets will calm and the perpetrators will be rounded up one by one.
Now we need to sit down and work out how to off-set potential outbreaks in the future.