South East Wales

Bottle attack on Abercynon firefighters 'appalling'

Fire engine

An attack on firefighters who had bottles thrown at them while tackling a fire that was started deliberately was "absolutely appalling".

The Abercynon crew was targeted in a park in Ynysboeth, Rhondda Cynon Taff (RCT), on Friday.

Jennie Griffiths, of South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said she was "angered, disappointed and shocked".

RCT council leader Andrew Morgan said he was appalled and backed the use of body-worn cameras.

It comes as Gwent Police also revealed 11 of its officers were assaulted in a 24-hour period over the weekend.

Ch Supt Marc Budden told BBC Wales it was "shocking".

Officers had been bitten, spat at and head butted, he said.

"We try and protect our officers in the best way we can. They carry handcuffs, batons, but the biggest thing they carry is their communication skills," he explained.

"On the majority of occasions we resolve incidents very very quickly for the safety of the public, unfortunately 11 officers have been assaulted this weekend."

In Ynysboeth, firefighters were attacked as they tried to put out a fire that had been started deliberately in a park at about 23:00 BST.

Mr Morgan, who represents the neighbouring Mountain Ash West ward, visited the location of the attack and fire on Saturday.

He backed calls for emergency service workers to wear body-worn cameras.

"There's a general issue across areas like parks and public spaces, it seems to be okay to light fires and damage public property," he said.

"It's not just damaging property, it's actually putting people's lives at risk. For example, Abercynon fire station only have one fire engine. If they're dealing with a fire in the park, and then had another call, they could be prevented from saving lives in house fires.

"It's an unfortunate position for me to say that I welcome body cameras, but it's the only way.

"But the body cameras won't actually prevent it, there needs to be a cultural education programme around it. This kind of behaviour is absolutely appalling."

But Cerith Griffiths, Regional Secretary of Fire Brigades Union said he wasn't convinced body cameras were the way forward for fire crews in Wales, "We are not entirely convinced that they are effective.

"The fire service have always been seen to be neutral, and if we started to take on the role of catching the criminal, then we have concerns that it might increase the attacks."

He said education programmes for youngsters would be more effective.

The Welsh Ambulance Service has said that paramedics could soon wear body cameras after a spike in its staff being attacked.

Nathan Holman, the Welsh Ambulance Branch Secretary for the GMB said , "We want to find a way forward to do our job and help the public but also find ways of protecting ourselves. We are concerned about the Big Brother watching us, but how do we get past that?"

Five health boards in Wales already use the body cameras to record attacks and abuse towards hospital staff in a bid to deter violent behaviour - with security staff wearing them.

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