ATTACKS on firefighters attending blazes in the Lothians are on the rise with crews reporting everything from assaults with beer cans to thugs trying to steal appliances.
At least 46 violent attacks were launched against firefighters tackling blazes in the last year, a rise of more than 25 per cent since 2010 and the first increase in four years.
Crews have been attacked with bricks, eggs and even berries as they responded to emergency incidents. They have also been threatened with pool cues and have experienced youths stubbing out cigarettes on their uniforms, spitting at them and trying to cut up hoses.
Today fire bosses blasted the “senseless” attacks.
David Lockhart, community safety manager at Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service, said chiefs would not hesitate to prosecute anyone who carried out such anti-social behaviour. He said: “Any attack on operational firefighters is totally senseless. They play a vital role in the community, protecting the public from fire and other emergencies.
“We now have added legislation in the form of the Emergency Workers Act, which has been used to successfully prosecute people who have impeded firefighters and other emergency service personnel from carrying out their duties.
“Although we have seen an increase in figures this year, over the longer term attacks are down and in part this is due to our continued efforts to educate the public about the need to respect firefighters and the risks of prosecution should they choose not to.”
He added: “We’re always alert to the possibility of these kind of incidents, and as alcohol can often play a part, this is something we are very aware of over the festive period. We get a lot of support from the police if we attend an incident.”
Throughout the course of 2011 firefighters endured dozens of call-outs where they were showered with rocks and bricks and abused in the street. During one incident, on Niddrie Mains Road, small children ambushed a fire crew.
It followed a previous incident when a large gang of children aged between six and 16 attacked firefighters, leaving one injured. They targeted six firefighters from Bathgate, pelting them with stones while their backs were turned, resulting in a leg injury.
Earlier this year, a 15-year-old schoolboy was charged with trying to steal a fire engine while up to 30 children pelted firefighters with eggs at West Pilton Children’s Centre.
In 2010 one home owner tried to attack crews with a pool cue. Children later attacked them with full beer cans, eggs and berries.
The number of attacks was at its highest in 2006, when nearly 80 incidents were recorded by the service. Firefighters were punched, kicked, spat on and dog excrement was thrown at them. There were around 50 attacks in 2007, 45 in 2008 and 45 in 2009.