West Yorkshire Police (WYP) is standing shoulder to shoulder with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) in a commitment to stopping attacks on firefighters and taking every action possible to catch those responsible of such mindless behaviour.
During November, Police have already begun trialing training days with firefighters on recognising the signs of public order and how to defuse potentially volatile situations.
This follows Bonfire Night 2017 which saw 16 recorded attacks on fire crews across West Yorkshire as they tried to keep people and property safe.
Watch below fire engine video footage of firework narrowly missing Firefighter Jack Furbisher on November 5
Watch below video footage of attack on Halifax’s fire engine on November 5
Today Chief Police Officers have furthered their support in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with WYFRS Chief Fire Officers (pictured right) to ensure the two blue light services are working as efficiently as possible together to crackdown on perpetrators.
Verbal and physical abuse towards firefighters whilst in the course of their employment has been on a steady rise across West Yorkshire for the last five years, with a particular spike in the last two years (see full figures at end).
- Nine attacks on Halloween (Oct 31st)
- Between November 1st and 6th this year there were 20 attacks recorded
- Four attacks recorded during the rest of November and four in December to date.
The worst attacks are generally characterised by the throwing of stones or fireworks towards firefighters or fire engines.
This year WYFRS launched a publicity campaign called More Than A Uniform to appeal to people’s conscience and highlight the fact that the people behind the uniform are only human, with families, personal lives and dependants.
In the latest move, we have established a Memorandum of Understanding with West Yorkshire Police which will ensure fast and effective reporting, investigation and, where possible, prosecution, following an attack on a member of Fire Service staff.
Chief Fire Officer John Roberts said: “It is a sad reality that our firefighters are being attacked whilst going about the course of their work protecting people and property.
“Whilst the attacks are commonly around the Bonfire season, they have continued since then and are happening all year round.
“The Police are equally as appalled by this as us and we welcome their backing in condemning these attacks and ensuring that together we capture the best evidence and do everything we can to bring perpetrators to justice.”
Chair of the Fire Authority Councillor Judith Hughes said: “In response to the attacks on our crews the Fire Service set up a working group to look at ways we could best prevent this kind of senseless behaviour.
“We have run a high profile publicity campaign to raise awareness of the issue and we hope this will encourage communities to stand with us against these attacks and spread the message that they are not acceptable.
“Our campaign has had backing of our local MPs, two of whom accompanied crews on a Bonfire weekend shift to see just what crews face.
“I would like to thank both Judith Cummins MP and Holly Lynch MP for giving up their time to see first -hand what our emergency service personnel have to endure around the Bonfire period, and we hope this experience will help them to advocate for our emergency services in the House of Commons.”
West Yorkshire Chief Constable Dee Collins said: “The emergency services risk their lives to protect the public and it is totally unacceptable that they should be subject to assault and attack.
“In signing this MOU, we want to send a message to the public that this is intolerable.”
Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, is also strongly in support of the MOU, which has been signed at a Tri Service Collaboration Workshop at Fire Service Headquarters in Birkenshaw.
West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, said: “As joint Chair of the Tri-Services (Police, Fire & Ambulance) Collaboration Board, I know the incredible job that emergency workers do running towards danger as they try to keep our communities safe and feeling safe.
“I know the importance of agreeing this MOU is to ensure a process and expectations are in place on both sides to make sure those committing these despicable attacks on our emergency workers face the consequences because the relevant evidence has been gathered that gives the best possible chance of a prosecution where necessary.
“Perpetrators need to consider the recklessness of their actions and know that they will rightly face strong action and possible prosecution, this MOU goes a long way to ensuring this happens and I was keen for our Tri-Services Collaboration to make this statement of intent.”
Firefighter Jack Furbisher of Cleckheaton Fire Station’s Green Watch is the Firefighter who narrowly avoids being hit by a firework (see first link to footage).
It happened on a very busy Bonfire Night 2017 when the crew attended a fire in the open containing wood and tyres in the Beeston area.
Jack (pictured right) said: “There was a big group of teenagers and straight away, with it being that time of year, it’s in the back of your mind.
“I had only got off the wagon 30 seconds prior.
“I jumped a bit. Thankfully it did not hit me square in the chest it could have been a lot worse.
“It’s one of those mindless things that unfortunately we see now and again and it does seem to get worse at that time of year because it’s dark and fireworks are readily available.
“It’s not a nice situation to find yourself in – then you spend the rest of the incident with one mind on the job and one mind looking over your back or your mate’s back.
“I think the firework was about half a foot from me and exploded behind me. Had I been a foot either side it could have been a different story.”
Andy Horsley is another Fire Service employee who knows what it’s like to come under attack.
The Watch Commander who works at Odsal Fire Station and has almost 25 years under his belt in the Fire Service.
Andy (pictured right) was accompanying Bradford South MP Judith Cummins on the evening of Saturday, November 4, when she spent an evening with Police and fire crews.
During the evening, Andy and the MP attended a bonfire where fireworks were fired at them by a group.
And only recently on December 1, Andy was part of a crew attending a fire involving wheelie bins alight at the rear of a youth centre in Bradford District when a brick was thrown at the fire engine.
Andy said: “These are senseless attacks that just make our job that much more difficult. As a Watch Commander I have the safety of my crew to think about at any fire we attend and this just adds an unwanted dimension that you could do without.
“I struggle to understand it – I just don’t get it.”
November 5th for each year
||Attacks on firefighters