ATTACKS on firefighters risking their lives to tackle emergency calls have surged since 2015, fresh figures show.
A Freedom of Information Act request has revealed eight firefighters in Hampshire have been assaulted while trying to carry out their job in the past year.
It’s a sizeable leap from 2015/16, when only two of the county’s officers were attacked
The statistics come after a firefighters in Southsea were last month pelted with rocks by yobs who were setting fires in a derelict building.
The revelation has sparked fury from one of Hampshire’s top firefighters as well as union bosses at the service.
Area manager Kevin Evenett, head of response delivery for the fire service, said: ‘Our job is to protect our communities and keep the public safe.
‘Firefighters responding to 999 calls should not have to worry about dealing with aggressive members of the public and certainly should not be subjected to assaults as they carry out their life-saving work.
‘We will not tolerate such behaviour and will report any such incidents to our police colleagues.’
An investigation by The News revealed that in 2015/16 only two officers reported they had been attacked.
These were at stations based in Hamble and St Mary’s, in Southampton.
But last year recorded the highest number of assaults in three years, with eight attacks reported – including two at Havant and one in Cosham.
These figures don’t include previously-reported attacks to Southsea crews in April.
The news appalled Gary Jackson, secretary of Hampshire’s Fire Brigades Union.
He said this surge in attacks was the result of government cuts to police and feared this was only the tip of the iceberg.
‘No firefighter should be exposed to any intimidating acts by persons while in the course of their duties,’ he said.
‘We note the worrying rise in the number of attacks and related incidents, and fear this situation can only get worse with the pressures on the police numbers brought about by this government
‘Where previously our crews might expect a police attendance at incidents, this is no longer a given.
‘This has resulted in fire crews having to both deal with the incident and ensure the safety of crews.
‘This can impact upon our ability to swiftly resolve an incident, tying up resources unduly and diverting the focus of crews away from the emergency.’
Recently firefighters have been fitted with body-worn cameras in a bid to drive down attacks.. The cameras are used to record evidence of firefighters being hindered, intimidated or assaulted.
This footage can then be used to prosecute individuals.
‘We will work under the expectation that every one of these incidents is investigated and, where appropriate, the full force of the judicial system is utilised to ensure any person responsible for these attacks is prosecuted.’ Mr Jackson added.