Unacceptable abuse of firefighters in Sunderland on Bonfire Night

Marley Park Firefighters were subjected to unacceptable levels of abuse while attending car fires in Southwick, Sunderland last night.

Firefighters attend a bonfire

Initially we were called out to a car fire at 17.22 yesterday afternoon at Greystone Place, where a car had been driven into a bonfire. However the crews were subjected to missiles and fireworks by a group of youths – aged between about 10 and 19 – who then attempted to barricade the fire engine into the street. Fortunately the crews were able to withdraw.

However, the crews returned to the area, just after 19.00, following a further report of a car on fire. Yet again they were set about with fireworks and other missiles. Fortunately there were no injuries to either firefighters or appliances.

TWFRS Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Alan Robson commented:

“This takes the abuse against our firefighters to a new unacceptable level. These are dedicated professional people whose job it is to protect our communities. Not only did they have to suffer objects – including fireworks, bricks and bottles being thrown at them – but also had the threat of not being able to leave the scene due to the attempt to barricade in their fire engine.

This led us to make the very rare decision to only attend life safety incidents within the area. Our firefighters welfare is of the highest priority and this cannot be compromised by the despicable actions of a minority of thoughtless young people.

I would like to commend sections of the local community who have been able to provide the police with information which will hopefully identify the perpetrators. I very much hope that this leads to some successful prosecutions. If anyone has any information, I urge them to contact CrimeStoppers on 0800555111.”

Sergeant Louise McClennan, of Northumbria Police, said: “It is extremely disappointing that on Bonfire Night we received reports from Greystone Place of people involved in anti-social behaviour, which included throwing missiles and fireworks at individuals and abusing emergency service personnel.

“This deplorable behaviour is completely unacceptable and is something we take incredibly seriously. We attended the scene on the night and have launched an investigation. We would urge anyone who knows the identity of those who were responsible to come forward.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the overall majority who behaved responsibly and we were pleased to see a significant reduction in firework-related anti-social behaviour across Sunderland and South Tyneside from last year.”

On top of these attacks, over this Bonfire weekend we have seen a further 4 attacks on firefighters.

TWFRS has recently launched an initiative with Northumbria Police and other local partners in the area, to try and address the unacceptable levels of anti-social behaviour and provide fire safety advice to residents.

Russ King, Fire Brigade Union (FBU) Secretary:

“It is absolutely astonishing that in this day and age anybody would believe it is acceptable to attack firefighters, however sadly new figures suggest that there is a growing problem of attacks on firefighters. In England alone this year we have seen a 25% rise in attacks on Firefighters.

The individuals who carry out these attacks must realise that the people who they are attacking are professionals who are committed to keeping our communities safe including them. Any damage to Firefighting equipment or Firefighters may cause harm and have a detrimental effect on the level of fire cover that we provide to ensure we keep the community in which they live in safe!”