Fire-fighters suffer 'inexcusable' attacks and ambushes

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The Independent Online

Up to 40 attacks every week are being carried out against firefighters, the Fire Brigades Union said today.

Up to 40 attacks every week are being carried out against firefighters, the Fire Brigades Union said today.

Bricks, bottles and missiles were regularly thrown at crews, while fires had been set deliberately to lure firefighters into ambushes.

The union called for a national strategy to combat the increasing number of assaults on fire crews.

FBU general secretary Andy Gilchrist said it was "only a question of time before a firefighter is killed".

Union research also found that scaffolding poles had been thrown through windscreens and that equipment had been tampered with or stolen, and in some cases were urinated on.

The FBU said attacks had reached the 2,000 mark over the year but added that the figure could be as much as three times higher because of under-reporting of such incidents.

There were 1,200 attacks on crews in Northern Ireland in the past three years, while 388 hostile incidents in Scotland were recorded in 2004.

In England and Wales, in the nine-month period to the end of January 2005, information from 18 of 50 brigades, a total of 393 attacks were reported.

Mr Gilchrist said: "The number and ferocity of the attacks appears to be getting worse. A young boy in Scotland died in one attack and it is only a question of time before a firefighter is killed.

"These attacks are inexcusable and must not be tolerated. It can never be part of anyone's job to get a brick or bottle in the head, or to be spat at.

"Many attacks are in deprived areas with poor youth facilities and poor housing, where bored young people turn to drugs and alcohol. But they happen in many other types of areas which are neither poor or deprived.

"There is no quick-fix solution but we need to start with a properly resourced national strategy rather than it being left to cash-strapped local fire services."