Scotland

Safety fears over Bonfire Night crews

Silhouette of firefighter and bonfire Image copyright Getty Images

Experienced firefighters have told of their fears for the safety of crews as they prepare for Bonfire Night.

One watch manager said an incident on 5 November last year was like entering "a war zone".

It was among a number of incidents involving disorder and fire-starting - one of which resulted in serious injury to a police officer in Edinburgh.

The concerns have been raised as the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service launches its #DoNotAttackMe campaign.

The campaign condemns the abuse of firefighters as they go about their duties.

Crews responded to about 330 bonfires across Scotland between 17:00 and 22:00 on Bonfire Night last year, while operations control received more than 800 calls.

'Confronted by chaos'

In one incident, firefighters based at Marionville Fire Station in Edinburgh were called to respond to a massive bonfire engulfing five cars.

The service said they had to "stage a tactical withdrawal" and call for police assistance after being "harangued" by a large group of youths.

In another incident, firefighters were "confronted by chaos" and attacked by youths after being mobilised to extinguish multiple fires in the Pilton and Craigentinny areas of the city.

Watch manager Glynn McAffer, who was with colleagues from Crewe Toll Fire Station's Blue Watch, said: "It was like a war zone when we arrived, and my first thought was 'I'm not going in there.'

"We attended, of course, but were confronted by a massive group of around 40 youths who threw fireworks at us and ordered us to go away.

"I had no other choice but to call our operations control and inform them that we required a police presence to ensure the safety of our firefighters."

Image copyright SFRS
Image caption Watch manager Adam Orr said he had to listen as colleagues were subjected to the threat of attack from youths last year

Another watch manager, Adam Orr, said he and other staff in Operations Control at Tollcross Fire Station had to listen as colleagues on the ground were subjected to the threat of attack from groups of youths last year.

He said: "It is very hard knowing the crews out there are under attack. All we can do is contact the police and pull the crew out of the area.

"We hope the public understand how frightening it is for our crews and our Operations Control staff listening in to all of this."

Firefighters from Bathgate Fire Station also had to contend with youths who had set multiple fires last year.

Watch manager Brett McMahon said: "The crews have in the past had bricks thrown at the window of the fire engine and fireworks thrown at them - I don't understand why they do it.

"We signed up for this job knowing the risks but we didn't sign up to being attacked or abused.

"I just hope that this year that it stops - we are human and we have families to go home to. So why would anyone attack us?"

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