Fire crews attacked '40 times a week'

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The Independent Online

Fire crews are being attacked 40 times a week, assaulted by bricks, bottles and stones as they tackle blazes, the Fire Brigades Union said today.

Other incidents include ambushes, booby traps and attacks with lumps of wood and knives.

"In some areas attacking fire crews has become a recreational activity, with very serious consequences," said the union's general secretary Matt Wrack.

The union said attacks had risen 15 percent to 1,504 in England and Wales in 2006-07.

That compared with data from the Department for Communities and Local Government which showed a 68 percent fall to 400 over that period.

"The government figures are ridiculous," Wrack told BBC radio.

In Tyne and Wear the fire authority has distributed "spit kits" to fire crews to collect DNA from those spitting at them.

Wrack said the highest numbers of attacks were in areas characterised by poor housing, poverty and few or no facilities for young people.

He called for a government-funded national strategy with fire authorities for plans to tackle violence against crews.

In Scotland there were 309 attacks against fire staff in 2006-07, while in Northern Ireland there were 285 attacks, according to official figures.