UK

Bonfire Night fire crew attacks 'unacceptable', says union

fireworks Image copyright Getty Images

Bonfire Night attacks on fire crews have been condemned and described as "nothing but a criminal act" by the Fire Brigades Union.

Firefighters and vehicles were targeted in incidents in south Wales, Salford, West Yorkshire and Essex, marring the 5 November celebrations.

Crews in Scotland also had missiles and fireworks thrown at them.

Dave Green, from the FBU, said the attacks were unacceptable and had a "debilitating" effect on staff morale.

In Oldham a teenage girl was seriously hurt after being hit by a firework.

'Humanitarian service'

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) crews had were attacked as they attended numerous call-outs.

One firefighter was hit by a stone in Bingham, Edinburgh, as his crew helped tackle a rubbish fire.

In south Wales two fire crews were attacked by youths as they dealt with separate incidents, following an incident of a crew being attacked with fireworks in Cardiff on Tuesday.

Image copyright GMFRS
Image caption Several cars were set on fire across the Greater Manchester region

"We condemn entirely people attacking firefighters in the course of duty," Mr Green said.

"This just goes beyond the pale and I think 99.9% of people would agree with us. It is just not acceptable and we ask people to consider that these firefighters are doing a job and the last thing they expect is the very people they're trying to help attacking them."

Elsewhere, youths threw fireworks at firefighters in Salford, and cars were set alight, while a fire engine had its window smashed in West Yorkshire and fireworks were fired at police officers in Basildon, Essex.

"Aside from the physical issue and the fear for their safety, the effect on morale is quite debilitating," added Mr Green.

"You're trying to help these people and they are turning on you. We are a humanitarian service."

'On the rise'

Mr Green said substantial cuts to personnel, with 10,000 fewer firefighters than in 2010, had reduced the ability to build relationships within communities, a tactic which had helped break down the image of an "authority" service.

"This is something we experienced 15-20 years ago when it happened a fair amount," he said. "We thought we had nipped it in the bud.

"Attacks from 2000 to 2010 went down by 50% but since then, anecdotally, they appear to be back on the increase.

"It cannot be a coincidence and it reflects the amount of work we do in the community."

He also blamed the move to localised decision making in 2004, saying fire service provision was now "literally a postcode lottery."

Fire service minister Brandon Lewis condemned attacks on firefighters and the police and said the government is "committed to public safety."

He stressed it was up to each fire and rescue authority to determine the most effective preventative, protective and response arrangements for local communities, including the number of fire stations, the make-up of their workforce and shift patterns.

"There is no question that fire and rescue services have the resources they need to do their important work," he said.

"There are more efficiencies to be made including through greater collaboration with other emergency services."

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