13/05/2008

Fire Fighters Attacks Condemned As Blaze Man Rescued

As a man is saved from a house fire in Belfast, a growing number of attacks on fire fighters have been condemned.

The man who was rescued from the fire at his house in east Belfast by his neighbour, is believed to be in his 60s.

He suffered burns to his hands in the blaze which destroyed a bedroom of the property on Avoneil Road.

Commenting, Graham Lowry, Assistant Group Commander with the Fire and Rescue Service said the house did not have a smoke alarm: "It could have been much worse, the gentleman did have a lucky escape," he said.

"One of the neighbours had been passing the gentleman's house and noticed the flames and was able to force his way into the property and rescue the man."

Meanwhile, attacks on fire crews are said to be placing fire fighters’ lives in danger and put communities at risk.

The NI Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has condemned a spate of attacks on fire fighters over the weekend, and said it was absolutely unacceptable for anyone to assault emergency workers.

"All our emergency workers strive to protect and save the population from harm.

"It is likely that those people who are carrying out these cowardly attacks will one day need help from those very staff they are assaulting.

"By attacking fire crews, there is a very real risk that a fire fighter will be injured or equipment may be damaged, resulting in a fire engine not being available for a real emergency.

"These attacks are cowardly and criminal, and have no place in a civilised society. The perpetrators need to be caught and they need to be punished.

"Communities and parents must also help to try and stop our young people from carrying out these attacks," he said.

"There has to be a zero tolerance response to attacks on all our emergency workers," the Minister continued.

At the same time plans to introduce further tough legislation are also being taken forward by the Minister.

He is currently in discussions with the NIO over a proposal to introduce new legislation that will make it a specific offence to assault or impede health and social care workers, whilst in pursuit of their duty.

(BMcC)

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