Fewer assaults on fire crews not whole picture, says union

Crews have been known to come back after verbal physical and verbal abuse, says John DUffy
Crews have been known to come back after verbal physical and verbal abuse, says John DUffy
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ATTACKS on firefighters have fallen by more than a third in the last year, new Scottish Government figures have revealed.

There were 112 incidents in 2011-12, with one person injured – compared to 172 attacks and 14 firefighters hurt the previous year.

Last year’s figures included 50 cases when objects were thrown at firefighters and crews, and 38 incidents of verbal abuse.

However, the Scottish Fire Brigades Union (FBU) believe they may just be the tip of the iceberg as many incidents go
unreported.

John Duffy, Scottish secretary of the FBU, said: “We welcome the reduction, although it
remains too high.

“But the impression we get remains the same – attacks are grossly under-reported.

“Crews come back very often after verbal abuse, physical abuse, young kids throwing stones at fire engines. Unless someone is hurt or something has been damaged, it does not get reported.”

Despite the Scotland-wide fall, the one area to see a rise was
Lothian and Borders, which saw incidents increase from 33 in 2010-11 to 41 last year.

A spokeswoman for the service said this was because of a spike around bonfire night last year, when the weather was fine, compared to previous years when it was not.
“We can see a spike in the figures in the month of November,” she said.

“That’s a seasonal thing. That’s the busiest month and also the time when we see a spike in anti-social behaviour.”

Crews in Lothian and Borders have been attacked with bricks, eggs and beer cans while responding to emergencies, and there have been life-threatening incidents.

Across Scotland, there were also nine incidences of physical abuse, eight cases of harassment and seven other acts of aggression, according to the Scottish Government figures.

Both police forces and fire brigades will merge into national services for the whole of Scotland in April next year, the biggest change in a generation.

It is hoped that between them, £1.7 billion will be saved over 15 years for public coffers.

In recent years, fire crews have put an increasing focus on prevention in a bid to stop blazes breaking out.

They carried out 56,545 home safety visits last year, an average of one for every 44 homes in Scotland. During those visits, 46,395 smoke alarms were
installed.

Roseanna Cunningham, community safety minister, said: “I firmly believe it is an improving awareness of the risks of fire in our homes, which can be averted through simple measures such as installing a smoke alarm, that has seen a 29 per cent reduction in house fires since 2001-02.

“But none of us can be complacent. Every house fire is one too many and that is why the Scottish Government and fire services continue to work hard educating people about fire prevention measures they can take.”