Chair of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority condemns attacks on emergency workers

The chair of the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority has today (Tuesday) condemned the abhorrent attacks on emergency workers at the weekend.

On Saturday evening firefighters and police officers were subjected to verbal and physical abuse by a group of teenagers in the West Denton area of Newcastle.

Fire crews are believed to have been lured to the area by a hoax call that reported a serious car fire was taking place in the area.

Upon their arrival firefighters found it was in fact a small rubbish fire but, as they began to tackle the fire, they were targeted with missiles, including petrol bombs and heavy glass bottles.

Despite attempts to barricade the fire appliance into the cul-de-sac, and a laser being shone into the cab, crews were able to escape the area uninjured.

Northumbria Police did respond to the area following the incident but a police officer was also attacked and required treatment for a head injury.

Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther, of TWFRS, yesterday condemned the attacks, saying they were the worst he had seen in his 26 years as a firefighter.

And now Councillor Phil Tye, Chairperson of the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority, has said he will work with local agencies, politicians and partners to take action.

He said: “Like the vast majority of our community, I was disgusted when I heard what had taken place in West Denton over the weekend.

“I have spoken to firefighters, and Chief Fire Officer Lowther, about attacks on staff in the past but this is a significant escalation in behaviour and enough is enough.

“Nobody should be targeted with this kind of violence, never mind front line blue light workers who come into work every day to keep our communities safe.

“The Service has responded to some serious house fires over the weekend, where lives were at immediate risk, and incidents like this could delay the emergency response.

“That thankfully wasn’t the case on Saturday evening but we know every second is vital when a life is on the line and so these individuals are risking lives in more ways than one.

“It puts the picture into sharp focus when at one location firefighters are saving lives and at another their safety is being put at risk by acts of mindless violence.

“I have told the Chief Fire Officer that he has the full support of the Fire Authority and we will work together with local agencies, politicians and partners to take action.

“To make real change, we need to have the support of the community. If you know those responsible then please get in touch with the authorities.

“They need to know this behaviour is unacceptable and they need to be stopped before a firefighter, police officer or member of the public is killed.

On Monday Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther said: “The attacks our crews were subjected to last night were up there with the worst I have seen in my 26 years as a firefighter.

“This was a planned and coordinated assault on emergency workers who were responding to an incident with only one thing in mind, the safety of our communities.

“Our firefighters already put themselves in dangerous situations without being subjected to verbal and physical abuse, including being showered with dangerous missiles.

“They are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters. They are human beings, with families. They are not nameless faces in a uniform.

“We are committed to working with the police to identify those involved in these mindless attacks on the emergency services but we need the support of our communities.

“If you know those responsible, and choose not to come forward, then you are condoning attacks on the very people who are there in your hour of greatest need.

“This is the latest in a string of attacks and needs to stop now. A line has been crossed and we need to ensure those responsible are held to account.”

Northumbria Police have confirmed that four teenagers – aged 16, 16, 15 and 13 – have been arrested following the incident and since bailed pending further enquiries.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Northumbria Police on 101, or using the Tell us Something page on their website, quoting reference NP-20220114-0811.

Alternatively you can contact independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.