South Wales Fire Service campaign over attacks on crews

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Media captionA fire crew was confronted by a gang of 30 to 40 youths at an incident in Penygraig

Firefighters have been punched, had bottles thrown at them and been confronted by gangs of youths during callouts, a fire chief has said as a campaign on the issue is launched.

South Wales Fire and Rescue Service said that its crews had also been kicked, had bricks thrown at them and been verbally abused during callouts.

In all the brigade had 14 incidents between 2012 and 2013.

Fire chiefs have said the problem could have consequences for victims of fires.

Chief Fire Officer Huw Jakeway was launching the campaign - We Can't Protect While We Are Under Attack - on Monday.

"It is absolutely beyond belief that our firefighters are being attacked so viciously while responding to emergency incidents and trying to save lives," he said.

"Attacking our fire crews has very serious consequences and it cannot and will not be part of anyone's job to face abuse, threats or attacks.

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Media captionDewi Jones told Felicity Evans the number of incidents has risen by 16% in the past two years

"We take any verbal or physical attacks against our staff very seriously. It is totally unacceptable and distracts us from our main role of keeping the public safe and protecting them in emergencies."

He said attacks on crews could have life-threatening consequences for people involved in fires.

Bonfire attack

In one incident last October, a fire crew attending a reported bonfire blaze at Penygraig in Rhondda Cynon Taf were confronted by a gang of 30 to 40 youths, who blocked their path.

The fire engine then came under attack, as objects were thrown at the vehicle. The firefighters were forced to retreat - unable to deal with the bonfire.

Dewi Jones, head of the fire crime unit at South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, 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.

"We want to put a stop to these attacks now."

He told BBC Wales the number of attacks had risen by 16% in the past two years, the latest coming on Friday.

"The range of attacks [varies] from verbal abuse, being spat, having missiles thrown at ourselves and even being ambushed. This is completely unacceptable.

"We have had incidents where a small fire is set on open ground, we come along to extinguish it and individuals will have lit fireworks and directed them directly at the crews who are putting out the fire."

Fire engines in south Wales are fitted with CCTV to record footage of attacks which could then be used to prosecute offenders.

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