North East councillors hit out at 'tragic' number of attacks on firefighters in the region

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Councillors have hit out over the “tragic” number of attacks on firefighters across the region.

Across the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service area there were 28 attacks on firefighters between April 1 and September 30 this year.

This is down from the 29 recorded during the same period last year and the 33 registered in 2021/22.

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Councillors at the latest meeting of the fire authority’s policy and performance committee (on Monday, November 13) reiterated that such attacks remain unacceptable, despite the drop compared to previous data.

Of the 28 incidents to date this year, 11 have been in the Sunderland region, with 16 in Newcastle and one in Gateshead.

Sunderland City Council’s councillor John Usher said he has received reports of a small number of young people in the Redhill ward which he represents carrying out such attacks on firefighters in recent times.

North East councillors have hit out over the number of attacks against firefighters in the region. Photo: Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.North East councillors have hit out over the number of attacks against firefighters in the region. Photo: Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.
North East councillors have hit out over the number of attacks against firefighters in the region. Photo: Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service. | Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service

He added: “They throw bricks at them, and then people have got to ring the police, and that’s happening far too often, so there’s a lot of engagement in the ward at the moment.

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“We’ve got to get them out of the habit. It beggars belief, but it does happen.”

Paul Russell, area manager for community safety at the fire service, said “unfortunately” they do have experience of such issues and they will work with police in hotspot areas.

He added: “What tends to happen there is we learn the lessons from the previous occasions.

“Therefore if incidents come in an area of a certain type, then we’ll respond with the police and we’ll respond appropriately with them.”

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A breakdown of incidents so far this year show 14 have involved objects being thrown at firefighters and/or appliances, 10 have been verbal abuse, one involved physical abuse, and there have been three classed as “other acts of aggression”.

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In total, 24 of the attacks took place while firefighters were attending fires, with three occurring while they were on “special service” calls and one during a false alarm.

Liberal Democrat councillor Tom Woodwark, Newcastle City Council representative, said: “The fact that in some parts of our communities that’s seen as being acceptable, because clearly if it wasn’t acceptable they wouldn’t be doing it, it’s tragic really.”

The meeting also heard there were five attacks on firefighters recorded during the bonfire period between November 1 and 6 this year, which was a drop on the seven recorded last year.

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