Mindless attacks on firefighters must not be tolerated, fire chiefs have warned today, as new figures reveal shocking levels of abuse suffered by the region’s civil servants on the frontline.
At least 300 cases of verbal and physical abuse - including live fireworks being launched and staff being bitten by dogs on call-outs - have been recorded by Yorkshire’s fire services over the last three years.
The new figures, obtained by Freedom of Information Act requests, come as West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service yesterday revealed that attacks on its firefighters have doubled during the period, as the service launched a new campaign in the run up to Bonfire Night.
The service released a dramatic montage of footage this week, showing its firefighters being pelted with stones, bricks and fireworks to coincide with the start of the ‘More than a Uniform’ campaign. It follows a fresh attack on Sunday, where yobs threw fireworks at crews dealing with an open fire in Bradford.
Dave Walton, deputy chief fire officer at the service, said: “The rise in attacks on our crews is gravely concerning to us and as we approach the bonfire period, when we tend to see a flurry, we are delivering a clear message that it will not be tolerated.
"We believe our crews are sometimes targeted as they are seen as a ‘uniformed authority figure’ so our campaign aims to open people’s eyes to the fact that if you attack a firefighter, you may be attacking a mum or dad, a wife or husband, or brother or sister.”
For the financial year 2016-17, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service recorded 95 incidents of violence against operational crews.
Meanwhile, in South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service told The Yorkshire Post that one of its firefighters was bitten by a dog in an attack in 2015. Between 2015 and 2017, there were 78 attacks on firefighters in South Yorkshire, the figures show. This includes 15 objects thrown at staff, 35 cases of verbal abuse and seven reports of harassment.
The majority of attacks took place in Sheffield, where 33 cases of abuse against firefighters were reported in the two-year period.
A West Yorkshire firefighter has spoken out about the abuse he suffered on the job.
Watch Commander Phil Warden, who works at Odsal Fire Station, revealed he had his nose broken during an attack by a group of up to 30 youths who threw bricks and stones at his fire engine.
He said: “At the time I was more frustrated than annoyed but since then I have found I have more concerns about large groups of youths which take some concentration away from operational incidents.”
Elsewhere, Humberside Fire and Rescue Service revealed that one of its female firefighters was injured after an aggressive man tried to get inside an ambulance.
The man “opened a sliding door onto her hand”, according to the results of a Freedom of Information Act request to the service.
From January 2015 until April 2017, there were 19 reports of abuse suffered by firefighters working for the service.
In North Yorkshire, there were 29 cases of abuse against firefighters recorded between 2014 and 2017.