Firefighters attacked by the public as they respond to incidents in Wigan

Wigan’s firefighters came under attack from members of the public more than a dozen times last year, new figures show.

Tuesday, 29th October 2019, 8:48 am
Firefighters were attacked 13 times in a year in Wigan

New data released under the Freedom in Information Act revealed that Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) crews responding to incidents across the borough were physically and verbally abused no fewer than 13 times in 2018/19.

Two out of the 13 incidents reported by GMFRS in Wigan borough involved harassment, while three involved objects being thrown at the crews. One incident of physical abuse was reported, along with seven instances of verbal abuse.

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Across Greater Manchester, there were 93 reports of attacks on firefighters in 2018/19, out of more than 900 across the UK.

Of these attacks, Wigan had the third highest tally, behind Manchester which had 17, while 16 took place in Salford.

One notable incident occurred in February 2018, when firefighters were pelted with bricks and stones after being ambushed by a group of youths who deliberately started a fire.

A crew from Hindley fire station was faced with a shower of missiles after being called to reports of a rubbish fire in a field just off Gas Street in Platt Bridge.

But shortly after arrival, they realised the blaze had been started deliberately by a group of around five to six youngsters, who began throwing missiles at them.

They defiantly continued to tackle the rubbish fire until it was extinguished, by which time the group had run off.

Although no firefighters were injured, watch manager Mick Callan said at the time that the incidence of fire crews being attacked by members of the public was “becoming more of a common theme”.

Station manager of Leigh and Hindley community fire stations, Adrian Taylor, also said: “Deliberate fires and attacks on our firefighters take up valuable time and resources that might be needed at incidents elsewhere.

“Firefighters work hard to protect the community and attacks on our crews is completely unacceptable.”

A new law was introduced across England and Wales last November, which doubled the maximum prison terms for assaulting blue light workers from six months to a year.

But Labour MP Chris Bryant, who spearheaded the so-called Protect the Protectors law by tabling a Private Members Bill, said he feared the justice system was “still not taking this seriously enough and the courts have still not taken on board the fact that this law is in place”.

He said: “We need a complete zero-tolerance attitude towards any kind of violence towards our emergency workers. Any assault on them is an assault on all of us.”

A Government spokesperson said: “Being attacked should never be part of the job for our firefighters, which is why we have been clear about the need for better protection and stronger sentences.”