The National Fire Chiefs Council Chair has said that he is “disgusted and appalled” after a London Fire Brigade firefighter was attacked as he rushed into a burning building.
The London Fire Brigade was called to a fire at a flat in Kensington Avenue in Thornton Heath at just after midnight.
Four fire engines and around 25 firefighters rushed to the scene.
However, as one of the firefighters raced into the burning building, he was attacked by a male who was at the property.
The firefighter was struck repeatedly over the head by a male who was at the premises.
Officials have said that had it not of been for the fact that the firefighter was wearing his helmet, then he would have sustained “serious injuries”.
The firefighter was taken to hospital but has since been discharged so that he can continue to recover at home.
NFCC Chair Roy Wilsher said:
“I am absolutely disgusted and shocked that a firefighter – putting his life at risk to save others – was attacked when attending an incident. Even more appalling is he was attacked by an individual at the property.
“This needs to stop now – the courts must use the maximum sentencing they have available.
“We want to see stronger sentences handed out. This is to both highlight these awful attacks – and to send a strong message to others; these mindless attacks must stop and those responsible will face a prison sentence.
“It is especially galling to see such an attack at a time when firefighters across the country are taking on more to support the response to the pandemic – from driving ambulances, supporting vaccinations to sadly, moving the deceased.
London Fire Brigade Deputy Commissioner Richard Mills said:
“While attending a fire at a block of flats in Thornton Heath overnight, one of our firefighters was attacked by a man at the property.
“This abhorrent and unprovoked attack on a firefighter is completely unacceptable, but during a global pandemic when all emergency services workers are going above and beyond to serve the public it is even more shocking.
“The firefighter was going into a building to fight a fire and potentially save lives and had it not been for his helmet, he would have sustained serious head injuries. Thankfully, he has been discharged from hospital.
“We take all attacks on our firefighters incredibly seriously and have already put our weight behind the Assaults on Emergency Workers Act which increased sentencing guidelines for such attacks and we will be working with the Metropolitan Police Service to assist with their investigation.”
Home Office statistics show attacks on firefighters rose from 578 to 961 between 2014/5 and 2018/9.
And in the last year there were 897 attacks recorded.
In some areas of the country, firefighters can no longer attend some types of fires – unless they have a police escort.
The NFCC has warned that these smaller fires can escalate quickly into large scale fires, putting properties and lives at risk.
Chris Lowther, Chair of NFCC’s Operations Committee and Chief Fire Officer for Tyne and Wear, has also called for the courts to hand out the maximum jail sentences available to send a clear message.
He said: “It is disgraceful that firefighters are attacked when trying to protect the communities they serve; ultimately saving lives. I would like to see custodial sentences handed out as we need a deterrent which makes people think twice.
“While sentences have increased from 12 to 24 months, we need to see these imposed. Emergency services staff must be treated with the respect they deserve; blue light services are here to keep people safe.”
Some fire services have reported an increase in attacks of firefighters during COVID-19.
Mr Lowther has said in his own service, there have been physical assaults, including missiles such as fireworks and bottles thrown at firefighters.
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