Bonfire Night attacks against firefighters lead to introduction of body cameras

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Firefighters in County Durham are set to be the latest to be given body cams following Bonfire Night violence.

Staff at County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service faced four attacks earlier this month [November] during the annual celebration.

No one was injured, but it has prompted brigade bosses to bring in the measure in an attempt to improve safety.

Area Manager John Walkden said: “In 2017 we didn’t have any violence towards staff and with all the proactive work we’ve done we’ve still had four [violent] events [this year].

“That’s consistent with the North East, Tyne and Wear [Fire and Rescue Service] had between six – eight attacks and that resulted in two injuries to firefighters.

“If I can draw a positive, we didn’t have any injuries to firefighters.”

Between October 25 – November 7, there were four recorded attacks on firefighters in County Durham, compared to none in the same period last year (2017) and just one in 2016.

Body cams had already been introduced for firefighters in County Durham last year on a trial basis.

However, this was later scrapped because it was felt unnecessary.

In September, fire chiefs in Cleveland said they would be issuing body cams to staff following a 60 per cent increase in attacks since 2015.

And earlier this month Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said it planned to do the same after crews were attacked with rocks while trying to put out a fire.

Durham firefighters are advised to withdraw from an area if they face attacks or violence and contact police to request assistance.

Durham firefighters used the lead-up to Bonfire Night to focus on prevention and education work, especially among children.

Area Manager Walkden added: “There’s a lot of planning and preparation that goes into the Bonfire Night period, starting with the analysis of the [previous year].

“In reality, we start getting involved in June-July time, just to look at our targeted hot spots and where we might want to increase our targeted patrols.

“Distribution of leaflets and getting to schools is key, to tell the children this type of activity is a strain on our resources.

“It’s hearts and minds to encourage children not to get involved in secondary fire activity.”

James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service