The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has demanded more protection for staff after a new report revealed there are 40 attacks on fire crews every week in the UK.
Official government figures show a fall of 68% in the number of attacks recorded by fire authorities in England and Wales. However, the FBU said the number of incidents recorded by fire authorities was four times the number reported by the government, and was in fact up 15% year on year.
It said that under-reporting could mean the true figure was much higher than the 2,000 attacks recorded last year.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) claimed that attacks in England and Wales have declined from 1,300 in 2005-06 to only 400 in 2006-07. However, figures obtained directly from fire services using the Freedom of Information Act showed the actual numbers of attacks increased from 1,300 in 2005-06 to 1,504 in 2006-07.
Fire crews reported being threatened, intimidated and abused, and being pelted with bricks, bottles, and stones. Further reported incidents included ambushes, booby traps and being attacked with wood, knives and a petrol bomb.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said the figures were a cause of concern, adding that many attacks were simply not being reported.
“It cannot be part of anyone’s job to face abuse, threats or attacks. It cannot be the job of an emergency fire control worker to face abuse while trying to help those who call 999,” he said.
“The consequences can be grave for the fire crews and emergency fire control staff involved. Physical injury is an obvious danger, but the threat of attack or persistent verbal abuse can demoralise, cause anxiety and increase stress.”