Crewe Toll firefighters hit by 25% of city attacks

Crewe Toll's firefighters have been attacked 23 times in three years. Picture: Tony Marsh
Crewe Toll's firefighters have been attacked 23 times in three years. Picture: Tony Marsh
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A QUARTER of all yob attacks against Lothian firefighters are inflicted on crews from a station in north Edinburgh.

Fire crews from Crewe Toll Fire Station are the most likely unit to come under attack while responding to blazes in the districts of Pilton, Granton, Drylaw and Muirhouse. New figures show 23 attacks out of total of 87 incidents meted out against Lothian firefighters in the last three years involved the Crewe Toll unit.

Crewe Toll's firefighters have been attacked 23 times in three years. Picture: Tony Marsh

Crewe Toll's firefighters have been attacked 23 times in three years. Picture: Tony Marsh

They have been pelted with bricks, stones, eggs and fireworks while carrying out their life-saving duties, with attackers said to be aged as young as nine. Many of the assaults are concentrated around Bonfire Night in November but the long summer evenings are also said to see a rise in loutish behaviour against firefighters.

There are 22 fire stations in Edinburgh and Lothian.

Fire chief Steve Harkness, group commander at Crewe Toll, said while mindful of potential for disorder, his unit had fostered good relationships with local residents and unsavoury incidents were becoming increasingly rare.

And while the figures show a year-on-year decline in fire crew attacks – with just 19 reported across Lothian this year compared with 40 in 2011 – Mr Harkness still feels one attack is one too many.

He said: “These figures show that we get a disproportionate amount of problems in one small area. Most of the time it’s just verbal abuse and sometimes they do light bonfires and there are occasions where they would light a fire to get the crews out but think that’s becoming relatively rare.”

A three-pronged approach to stamping out the attacks – involving schools and the fire and police service – is being credited with the dwindling number of violent incidents against officers.

But Mr Harkness said youths of all ages had been behind previous attacks.

“It can be late primary school kids from P6 or P7 to secondary school aged up to S4.”

Forth Councillor Allan Jackson, whose ward encompasses the attack hot spots, said he was seeking a round-the-table meeting with community groups to help halt attacks.

He said: “The figures for attacks in this area are obviously very concerning and I would be happy to chat with community groups and my colleagues and community councils, and get around the table to find new ways of reducing this.

A Fire Scotland spokeswoman said: “It is totally unacceptable crews are subjected to verbal and physical attacks. Firefighters work hard responding to emergencies and providing community safety advice to help keep people safe from fire and other incidents. Firefighters should not have to deal with being attacked in the course of these duties.

“As well as the real risk to firefighters, there may also be serious consequences for our communities if crews are unable to respond due to an attack.”

Ambulance workers hit too

MORE than 300 addresses in Lothian are officially classed as posing a danger to ambulance crews.

New figures obtained by Scottish Labour show that across Scotland there are 1323 addresses currently flagged by the Scottish Ambulance Service because of previous incidents of violent or threatening behaviour.

Greater Glasgow and Clyde tops the table with 345 addresses, but Lothian is next with 313.

Scottish Labour health spokesman Neil Findlay said the figures were shocking. He said: “It’s hard enough working in the ambulance service, without experiencing hostility from the public they serve. This makes an already difficult job even harder.”