England

‘Despicable’ rise in attacks on firefighters

Attacks on firefighters have soared by a quarter in the last year after the "demolition" of projects aimed at tackling anti-social behaviour, a union has warned.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said there were 933 incidents involving an attack on firefighters in England in 2017-18, up by 194 on the previous 12 months.

Matt Wrack, general secretary at the FBU, said it was "despicable" and "inexplicable" that anyone would attack firefighters.

"Cuts by this government have led to the demolition of community engagement projects, which are proven to reduce anti-social behaviour," he said.

"The number of firefighters has been massively reduced since 2010. We've lost 12,000 since 2010 and that has interfered with some of that activity we were engaged with previously."

Mr Wrack claimed fire crews are likely to take 30 seconds longer to respond to an emergency than in 2010, which "in a serious fire… can be the difference between life and death."

He admitted the figures "cover a whole range of attacks from verbal attacks to more serious incidents", but pointed to potential knock-on effects.

"In some cases people are physically injured, so people are absent from work because of injuries caused by these attacks," Mr Wrack added.

Firefighter Louise Connell, who is based in Halifax, told Sky News that attacks on the service are becoming increasingly common.

She and her colleagues were attacked on an early morning call by a man who was "confrontational and didn't understand why we were making the decision to extinguish a fire".

"The gentleman managed to pick up a piece of wood and struck us with the piece of wood while we were extinguishing the fire," Ms Connell told Sky News.

Earlier this week West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service released a video of one of their crews being attacked by people throwing fireworks at them.

No one was injured in the incident.

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A Home Office spokesman said: "Being attacked should never be part of the job for emergency services workers, who put themselves in harm's way to protect us.

"Fire and rescue authorities have the resources they need to undertake their important work. Overall, fire and rescue authorities will receive approximately £2.3 billion in 2018-19."

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