OAP arrested over snooker cue attack on firefighters

A PENSIONER has been charged with attacking firefighters with a snooker cue after they were called to put out his burning home.

The 70-year-old man is alleged to have screamed abuse at the fire crew and attempted to strike members of the team as they tried to rescue him.

Police had to be called to the man's home in Kippielaw Park, Dalkeith, before firefighters could continue to fight the kitchen blaze. The fire was eventually extinguished and the pensioner was later arrested and charged with a breach of the peace and under the Emergency Workers Act 2005.

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The latest incident on Friday night comes after figures showed charges for attacking emergency workers had tripled in the past four years.

Over the past year, fire crews have experienced 43 incidents of physical and verbal abuse, with incidents ranging from having tennis balls and apples thrown at them to being attacked with stones, bricks and bottles.

A spokesman for the service said: "This latest incident was particularly aggressive and we were forced to call the police. It is very dispiriting for firefighters when they are abused by people they are trying to help.

"The team had to hold the individual back with a door and wait for assistance. It meant they could not put out the fire in his kitchen until police had detained him, meaning it was a dangerous situation for both the pensioner and our crew. You often find that alcohol is involved in these incidents."

Group manager in operations, David Blair, added: "It is always extremely disappointing when firefighters are prevented from responding to an emergency call for assistance. Undue delay can in some cases result in a very real risk to life.

"Verbal or physical abuse to crews is totally unacceptable and in these cases we will call the police to ensure that action is taken against offenders.

"In the past, appliances have also been damaged and this can affect our service if those vehicles need to come off the run for repair."

Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service will continue running an education programme geared towards primary and secondary school children in 2010, which fire chiefs hope will discourage such violent incidents in future.

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So far the talks and presentations at schools in Edinburgh and the Lothians appear to have had some success. The number of incidents recorded by the fire service in 2003 stood at 87, dropping to 84 in 2005, then 49 in 2007.

A police spokesman added: "Physical and verbal abuse against emergency service workers will not be tolerated and we will robustly deal with anyone found to be responsible.

"Anyone who witnesses crimes of this nature should contact police immediately."