Fire chief warns attacks on crews not tolerated this Bonfire Night

Alex Hume - Scottish Fire and Rescue Service group manager for Falkirk and West Lothian
Alex Hume - Scottish Fire and Rescue Service group manager for Falkirk and West Lothian
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They are often regarded as heroes, displaying unmatched bravery and courage in order to save lives.

But there are some people who deliberately try to harm dedicated firefighters who put themselves at risk on a daily basis for the benefit of others.

Edinburgh experienced a night of mayhem during last year’s Bonfire Night celebrations with a female police officer suffering burns while firefighters also had fireworks and missiles thrown at them.

And with the festivities once again fast approaching, one crew has already come under attack from a gang of youths while extinguishing a bin fire in Livingston.

The crew was pelted with sticks, stones and bottles near Dedridge Road at 6.24pm on Wednesday, October 17 – fortunately there were no injuries sustained.

It is an incident which infuriated Falkirk and West Lothian group manager Alex Hume, who told the Evening News: “I was absolutely livid to learn about the attack in Livingston.

“It gets me angry because firefighters have a difficult enough job as it is and all we want to do is protect the local communities – that’s at the very heart of what we do.

“I feel it is absolutely disgusting that the minority feel it is OK to attack firefighters. It’s a risk they can do without when trying to conduct their duties.

“A key value of the fire service is safety and the safety of our crews and all emergency responders is paramount. It is sad to see they are coming under attack in this fashion.”

Mr Hume has first-hand experience of being attacked after being spat at, receiving stabbing threats and being hit over the head with branches during his 25 years of service. A total of 61 firefighters were attacked across Scotland in 2017/18, with emergency services standing firm that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated.

The 48-year-old added: “There is no justification for attacking any emergency services. Firefighters are someone’s family and they should not have to be looking over their shoulders.

“One of the concerns is the antisocial behaviour attached to starting fires which is why we have been working with other partners and schools. The majority of these incidents involve youths which is why parents have a big role to play in 
this.

“We are not wanting to spoil people’s fun, we are just making sure people are safe. It has a big impact on the local community and it also ties our resources to dealing with bin fires when there could be more serious events happening.”

Inquiries are ongoing in relation to the Livingston incident with Police Scotland urging the public to help them tackle anti-social behaviour.

Superintendent Jim Royan of Police Scotland’s Operational Support Division said: “Attacks on our colleagues in the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service are fortunately rare occurrences. However, when they do occur they will not be tolerated and we will use all tools at our disposal to find those responsible and hold them to account.

“We are devoting a range of specialist resources to assist local policing teams during the week of Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night under Operation Moonbeam. I would encourage anyone who does witness disorder of this nature to contact us.”