Attacks on firefighters double in a year

Firefighters are being attacked
Firefighters are being attacked
Share this article

Violence against firefighters in Wigan has more than doubled in a single year, according to shock new figures.

Twenty-one attacks have been reported this year on firefighters while they carried out their duties in the borough - compared to just 10 the previous year.

Fire chiefs are now backing calls for a new law which would make assaults on emergency services workers a specific criminal offence.

The increase for Wigan is the second highest in Greater Manchester, behind the City of Manchester, which saw a 163 per cent rise.

Former Leigh MP and now Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham witnessed the problems first-hand when he went out with firefighters in Bolton on Bonfire Night and the crew was pelted with missiles.

Across the region, the number of attacks is 89 so far this year, with only 51 taking place during the whole of last year.

Beverley Hughes, the deputy mayor for policing and crime, said: “To have our hard-working crews attacked almost 90 times in 11 months is dreadful – it endangers lives, frustrates firefighters and prevents our fire and rescue service from properly doing its job.

“These attacks take up the extremely valuable time and resources.

“Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service fully endorses the measures outlined in the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill 2017-19 to both protect firefighters and prosecute those who put emergency service personnel in harm’s way.

“These figures, both regionally and nationally, are shocking. Endangering the safety of those who make up our emergency services will not be tolerated.”

Mr Burnham, following his Guy Fawkes Night experience, added: “Attacking frontline 999 responders is disgusting and, where there is evidence, we should throw the book at those responsible.”

The fresh offence has the backing of the National Fire Chiefs Council, with the pattern being repeated UK-wide.

A fire chief for the Wigan area has also spoken out to condemn the level of ongoing violence displayed towards his frontline crews.

Lee Coleman, who is the Greater Manchester service’s group manager for the borough and neighbouring Bolton, has been dismayed by the number and ferocity of the attacks, which have been reported in parts of Westleigh and Ashfield Park in Standish, among other areas.

Fire officials, local police and borough council staff they are now jointly working to address the issue, which has been ongoing throughout the summer.

Mr Coleman said: “These attacks not only put our firefighters at risk, but also prevents them from attending other incidents, where potentially people’s lives could be at risk.

“Over the coming weeks, we will be working with our partners to stress the impact of this behaviour on our service.”