18/04/2005

Over 1,200 attacks on NI fire crews, FBU reveal

Official figures have revealed that there have been 1,200 attacks on fire crews in Northern Ireland over the last three years, with serious concerns that the problem is being underplayed.

New UK wide research carried out for the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and released on Monday showed that there are 40 attacks on UK fire crews every week.

FBU general secretary Andy Gilchrist said the number and ferocity of the attacks appeared to be getting worse.

“The causes appear complex and we need more than knee-jerk reaction headlines calling for ‘crackdowns’,” he said. “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 nor 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.”

Some of the attacks highlighted in today’s report include: scaffolding poles being thrown through windscreens of fire engines; crews being attacked with concrete blocks, bricks and bottles; being shot at; spat at; equipment tampered with or stolen; direct physical assaults on fire crews; and equipment being urinated on.

Official statistics show that attacks are now running at about 2,000 a year, but the FBU and the brigades contacted during the research said that there was now a serious problem of under-reporting.

(MB/GB)

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