The Local Government Association (LGA) has called for harsher sentences after a “sickening” rise in attacks on Fire & Rescue crews.
Latest government figures show that attacks on firefighters in England have surged by an astonishing 66 per cent in four years.
It comes at a time when attacks aimed at members of the emergency services have increased in general over the last 18-months.
In the period 2014/15 there were 578 attacks on Fire & Rescue Service crews alone, but this shot up to 961 in the period covering 2018/19.
The number of firefighters injured after being attacked whilst on duty during the 2018/19 period jumped by 175% from 24 to 66.
In one incident, a large tree trunk was thrown through the windscreen of a fire engine, and bricks were thrown at fire crews from Cleveland Fire Brigade as they tackled a large garden blaze that threatened to spread to other properties.
In another shocking incident, a firefighter for East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service needed hospital treatment after being hit in the head by a stone thrown at him as he dealt with an emergency call.
Pebbles and planks of wood were also hurled at crews as they tackled a tree fire in Eastbourne.
A firefighter from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service was badly injured after fireworks were aimed at him and a colleague by a group of around 15 youths as they tackled a bonfire in Crumpsall Park.
A firework became lodged under the back of his helmet, burning his hair and right ear, meaning that he had to be rushed to A&E to be treated for his injuries.
The outrageous attacks, which have increased during the lockdown in some areas, put firefighters at risk of serious injury, can stop them attending an emergency call where lives may be at risk, and can cause an emergency vehicle to be withdrawn from service.
Attacks on emergency workers became a specific crime in 2018.
Yet only 17 per cent of the 9,000 offenders who have since been sentenced for this offence have received an immediate jail term, according to the National Fire Chiefs Council.
The LGA, which represents councils and fire and rescue authorities in England, is calling for harsher sentences for anyone who is convicted of assaulting a firefighter.
It says the current maximum sentence of a year’s imprisonment should be increased to reflect the seriousness of the offence.
Attacks on firefighters include harassment, verbal and physical abuse, and objects – such as bricks, stones and fireworks – thrown at firefighters and fire engines. Eight firefighters required hospital treatment following assaults in 2018/19.
Typical incidents include drunk people assaulting firefighters on Friday and Saturday nights, and ambushes being set up on housing estates, leading to fire crews having missiles thrown at them upon arrival.
More serious incidents involve firefighters being attacked with weapons.
Cllr Ian Stephens, Chair of the LGA’s Fire Services Management Committee, said:
“It’s completely unacceptable for emergency service workers to be subject to attacks, aggression or acts of vandalism while protecting the public. The rising trend in violence towards firefighters is sickening.
“Our firefighters, like all emergency service workers, do a fantastic job in protecting our local communities and saving lives and should deserve our completely respect.
“The senseless violent actions of a minority of people puts firefighters at risk of injury or even worse and can also stop them from attending an emergency where lives may be at risk.
“Firefighters deserve complete protection. Increasing the maximum sentence for assaults on firefighters will show that these attacks will not be tolerated.”
Fire & Rescue Service bosses have called for the introduction of body cameras which can be worn by firefighters.
Bodycams are already used by the police and by some Ambulance Trust’s owing to the sheer number of assaults which are inflicted upon emergency workers.
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