Tyne and Wear Fire Chief leads national call for more body worn cameras to tackle firefighter attacks

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther is fronting a campaign from the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) that calls for all UK fire services to use body worn cameras.

Following a spate of mindless attacks over the bonfire period, the NFCC has released a video featuring crews revealing shocking first-hand stories and footage of firefighters being pelted with fireworks and verbally abused by members of the public.

CFO Lowther, who chairs the NFCC’s Operations Committee, opens the video. He said: “Last year, all Tyne and Wear frontline fire crews were issued with body worn video cameras to be worn by the officer in charge at all incidents. Since then, we have invested in additional cameras for our senior officers and our community safety teams.

It’s disgraceful that firefighters are being attacked while they’re trying to protect our communities and we need to see custodial sentences handed out to those responsible. The cameras send a clear message that we are committed to bringing anyone who attacks emergency service workers to justice. We will not hesitate to use our footage to support prosecution.”

Footage captured on TWFRS body worn cameras is included in the video, along with Newcastle Firefighter Aaron Hunter talking about his recent experience of being attacked.

On Bonfire Night alone, TWFRS recorded four attacks on fire crews. Between 2015 and 2020 there were more than 3,800 attacks on firefighters nationally. In 2019/20 alone, around 950 attacks were recorded in England and Scotland, not taking into account this year’s Bonfire period that saw a sharp rise in the volume and severity of attacks, with fireworks, stones and bricks being thrown at crews. Such attacks risk impacting the mental and physical health of firefighters.

In some areas of the country, firefighters can no longer attend some types of fires unless they have a police escort – including Hendon in Sunderland. NFCC warns these can escalate quickly into large scale fires, putting properties and lives at risk.