Police & senior firefighters have condemned the actions of a group of individuals who attacked firefighters, damaged fire appliances and assaulted police officers who responded to an assistance call made by Tyne & Wear Fire & Rescue Service.
During the incident, firefighters were barricaded in an area where a car was deliberately set on fire before ‘petrol bombs’ were thrown at them. Their exit had been deliberately blocked after the cowardly thugs responsible placed sandbags on the road.
On Saturday, at about 18:40 hours, Northumbria Police were contacted by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, requesting assistance while dealing with a rubbish fire on West Denton Way.
The fire service had been lured to the area by false reports that a car was on fire. It was, in fact, a bin that had been set alight.
While the firefighters were in attendance, they reported that about five people had gathered around them and began throwing glass bottles and rubble, with an appliance damaged.
Firefighters on the scene also reported that petrol bombs were thrown at them after they were barricaded near where a member of the public’s car had been set on fire. Fortunately, the petrol bombs did not ignite.
Response team officers from Northumbria Police immediately responded to the scene and began making enquiries.
Soon after the officers arrived on the scene, the group of young people returned and began throwing missiles at the officers and their vehicles, with two police cars damaged.
Officers also became aware of people throwing items from the footbridge on West Denton Way.
As the officers approached and attempted to detain them, an officer was assaulted by several individuals before the group fled the scene.
The officer received treatment for an injury to her head and is now recovering at home.
Three vehicles belonging to members of the public were also damaged.
An investigation has been launched, and one male, aged 16, was arrested in connection with the incident. He has since been released on bail.
Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther said:
“The attacks our crews were subjected to 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 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.”
A spokesperson for Tyne & Wear Fire & Rescue Service said:
‘At around 6.30 pm, we received a call about a suspected car on fire in a cul-de-sac, but when our crews arrived, they were subjected to horrendous abuse.
‘It was, in fact, a small rubbish fire near Hill Top House, believed to have been started by the group to lure our firefighters to the scene.
‘They were verbally abused before glass bottles containing liquid, and stuffed with rags, were hurled at the crews.
‘Thankfully, they fell short of them and didn’t ignite, but other glass bottles narrowly missed our firefighters and smashed inside our vehicle, leaving shards of glass across the seats.
‘Those responsible even tried to use sandbags to block our exit from the street, and it was only thanks to the assistance of a resident in removing the bags that we could escape.
‘Incredibly, none of our firefighters were injured, but the impact these kinds of attacks have on appliances cannot be understated. It is disgusting.
‘Chief Fire Officer Lowther has put an exclusion zone in place in areas of West Denton, which means we will only attend secondary fires with a police escort and full risk assessment.
‘We will still attend fires where life or property are at risk, but he says he doesn’t take the action, which was last used in the Meadowell riots of the 90s, lightly.’
Chief Supt Helena Barron, Northumbria Police Area Commander for Newcastle and Gateshead, condemned the behaviour and asked the public for support in bringing those responsible to justice.
She said: “This is absolutely abhorrent behaviour which will not be tolerated – acts of violence against emergency service workers are completely unacceptable and utterly senseless.
“We wish the officer who was injured a full and speedy recovery.
“We have launched an investigation and have been busy carrying out door-to-door and CCTV enquiries, as well as deploying extra officers in the area to carry out patrols.
“We recognise this is a small minority of individuals and welcome the overwhelming support we receive from our communities.
“We would ask that you continue to work with us, and we urge anyone who may have information about what happened to get in touch. Any detail, no matter how small, could really help.
“Anyone found to have been involved will be brought to justice.”
Northumbria Police are also asking members of the public who were in the area at the time or earlier in the day and saw groups of young people to come forward, as they may have information relevant to the enquiry.
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.
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