Attacks on firefighters continue, as Bonfire figures reveal increases in attacks, incidents and calls

Attacks on TWFRS firefighters are continuing to blight the work of the Service with incidents – since the Bonfire period – occurring in Benwell, Walker, Heworth and Blakelaw. Bricks, masonry and other missiles have been thrown at crews and appliances by groups of young people – sometimes as many as 15.

The view over the driver's shoulder of young people throwing missiles at a fire engine

These attacks come on the back of a shameful increase in the number of attacks on firefighters during the Bonfire period – which rose from last year’s 9 to 11; making this year’s attacks the highest number since 2010.  This is also reflected in national statistics, released today by the Home Office, showing that attacks – in all forms – have increased from 622, in 2015/16 to 738 in 2016/17 (April to March).

From Wednesday November 1st to Monday November 6th, crews were attacked with missiles – including fireworks – and suffered other forms of abuse in – North Shields; Benwell; Kenton; Fenham; West Denton; Southwick; South Shields and Birtley. Newcastle was the highest with five attacks, however attacks were seen across all TWFRS local authority areas.

Both deliberate refuse fires and deliberate secondary fires were also up 85%, at 296 and 328 respectively.

TWFRS, Chief Fire Officer, Chris Lowther commented:

“Public safety and protection is always at the heart of our work, and are the key objectives for our campaign over the Bonfire period. As a service we are here to respond when we are needed. However, it is totally unacceptable that our crews are facing physical and verbal abuse whilst carrying out challenging and dangerous work. Fortunately we have been able to pass through to the police information on alleged individuals, as well as CCTV footage from our appliances. We very much hope that successful prosecutions will follow.

The significant increase in deliberate fires is also a serious cause for concern. Not only are people putting themselves at risk in starting fires, but as we only have finite resources, our service could be seriously challenged if we have to respond to deliberate fires at the same time as a life-saving incident.”

Calls to our Firefighter Control were also up by 60% – from 729 to 1169, with an increase of 78% on Bonfire Night itself – rising from 290 to 517.

Incidents from 1st November to the 6th, were up by 42% from 468 to 667, predominately due to an increase in secondary fires (generally small outdoor fires, such as refuse fires, grassland fires and fires in derelict buildings or vehicles) which were up from 199 to 342.

There was a 20% increase in wheelie bin fires across the area on Bonfire Night, mainly due to an 85% increase in wheelie bin fires in Newcastle. However in North Tyneside and South Tyneside the picture was better, with reductions of 75% and 50% respectively. Additionally no firework or bonfire victims were involved in any of the incidents we attended. Fortunately, the number of victims involved in incidents was down by 33%, with no reported firework victims.