Lives could be lost due to increased attacks on firefighters, according to senior fire officers from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS).
Attacks on firefighters when they are on duty have increased by 16% in less than two years, with 12 counts of abuse in 2012/13, and a further 14 incidents by December 2013.
These incidents range from verbal assaults to physical violence, with firefighters even being shot or stabbed when at work in some parts of the country.
Dewi Jones, Head of the Fire Crime Unit, SWFRS said: “Thankfully it is a very small minority of people who are responsible for this kind of behaviour, however attacks on our Firefighters have increased over the last couple of years with many attacks still going unreported."
As a result of the increased attacks, SWFRS have started a ‘we can’t protect while we are under attack’ campaign. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the attacks and the damaging impact they can have on the lives at risk.
SWFRS Chief Fire Officer Huw Jakeway said; “It is absolutely beyond belief that our firefighters are being attacked so viciously while responding to emergency incidents and trying to save lives. Attacks on our crews could have life threatening consequences for the persons involved in the incident the firefighters are responding to – the occupiers of a house fire for example. "
Under the Obstruction of Emergency Workers Act 2006, it is a criminal offence to hinder the work of an emergency service worker when they are attending an incident. Despite this, servicemen and women are still reporting cases where they have been spat at, or had items such as bricks and bottles hurled at them, whilst doing their job.
Rhondda Inspector Nick Picton, said: “This is mindless behaviour... For them to be targeted in this way at any time is incomprehensible, and the seriousness of what happens is compounded by the fact these attacks even occur on Bonfire night – the busiest night of the year for our brave and committed emergency service colleagues. I'd like to remind people we take this sort of behaviour very seriously and I'd urge people to think about the consequences of their actions. "
Police Sergeant for the Fire Crime Unit, Mike Adams, has said they will continue work with the local police force to get justice for staff and secure prosecution against attackers. Fire appliances within SWFRS have had CCTV cameras installed, so that there is recorded footage of attacks to ensure justice and support the prosecution of offenders.