Sunderland firefighters to wear body cameras after being attacked with rocks while tackling blaze

A car was set alight during the attacks on Bonfire Night. Picture by BBC Newcastle.
A car was set alight during the attacks on Bonfire Night. Picture by BBC Newcastle.
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Firefighters from a station in Sunderland will now wear body cameras after crews were attacked with rocks while trying to put out a fire.

Attacks on firefighters have doubled in Sunderland North since April 2018 compared to the 12 months previous.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service assistant chief fire officer community safety Alan Robson

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service assistant chief fire officer community safety Alan Robson

Firefighters from Marley Park Community Fire Station have been attacked again while tackling a fire in Winslow Close, Sunderland, on Tuesday evening at 5.20pm.

A spokesperson for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said: "The crew were subjected to verbal and physical abuse when rocks were thrown at them whilst they were attempting to put out a fire. Fortunately there were no injuries and no damage to the engine."

On Bonfire Night, a crew from Marley Park were also attacked with bottles and bricks on Bonfire Night after they were called to the Southwick area of the city to deal with a bonfire.

Northumbria Police are currently investigating the most recent incident where a youth threw missiles of rocks and stones at firefighters and the fire engine earlier this week.

Aftermath of Bonfire Night in the Southwick area

Aftermath of Bonfire Night in the Southwick area

A spokesperson for the force said: "This is totally unacceptable and inquiries are ongoing into the incident."

To tackle the issue, body-worn cameras have been moved from crews in Sunderland Central to Marley Park Community Fire Station.

The changes were revealed at the North Sunderland Area Committee at the Bunny Hill Health Centre this week (November 15), where councillors condemned the recent attacks.

Recent figures for the Sunderland North area revealed the number of attacks on firefighters had more than doubled – from three in 2017/18 to seven so far in 2018/19.

Chief assistant fire officer Alan Robson told the Echo: "It is totally unacceptable that firefighters were subject to abuse whilst carrying out their duties. This behaviour is extremely dangerous and reckless.

“Thankfully, no one was injured. However, our firefighters should not have to tolerate abuse whilst they are working to protect our local communities. These attacks not only hinder our firefighters from fulfilling their duties, but also risk putting emergency equipment out of action, which could be needed to save lives at any time.

“We have used body worn cameras at a number of stations including Marley Park. Hopefully they will provide much needed evidence to help the Police deal with perpetrators, while ensuring the public and our firefighters feel safer.”

"We have worked in partnership with Northumbria Police, Gentoo and Sunderland City Council to try and reduce anti-social behaviour, particularly in the Southwick area.

"Unfortunately, during the darker nights we have seen an increase in these incidents.

"On November 13 a new piece of legislation came into effect regarding assaults on emergency services staff in order to and hopefully that will lead to tougher sentencing.

"These are crimes that need to be dealt with."

At the committee meeting, chairman of the Tyne and Wear Fire Authority and St Peter’s councillor, Barry Curran, called for the committee to explore funding for cameras at incident hotspots in future.

“This was an appalling attack on officers who were only trying to do their job,” he said.

“We need to support the emergency services and fire services, they’re being attacked all the time and it’s not acceptable.”

CCTV is currently available on fire engines with footage being passed to Northumbria Police.

Head of service delivery at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS), Steve Burdis, speaking at the meeting, said the body-worn camera changes were due to the “danger and risks crews are facing in the area”.

The cameras are currently being trialled at select stations, with funds potentially being channelled into other areas in future.

“It’s the minority spoiling it for the majority,” Mr Burdis added.

“It’s a cost but I think it’s a cost that’s worthwhile and it’s about making safer communities.”

In a show of solidarity with TWFRS, opposition Conservative councillors have called for cross-party support to oppose the violence.

A motion will be launched at full council on Wednesday, November 21 by leader of the Conservative group on the council, Coun Robert Oliver.

It reads: “This council, on behalf of the vast majority of law-abiding people in Sunderland, condemns the recent attacks on firefighters in this city and will support a zero-tolerance approach to anyone caught attacking any firefighter who do one of the most dangerous and essential jobs in our society.”