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Attacks on firefighters double as number of bonfire call-outs soar

Fire crews attended nearly 50 bonfires across the north of Scotland yesterday

Fire crews across Scotland received more than 1,000 calls on Bonfire Night – including 144 across the north.

Of those, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s north teams – which cover Grampian, the Highlands and islands, Angus, Dundee and Perth – attended 49 bonfires.

Two of those fire crews were attacked on call-outs, although nobody was injured.

A crew in the Highlands experienced verbal abuse, with fireworks aimed at firefighters and appliances in Dundee.

The fire service  revealed there had been 12 assaults on crews across the country in total – double the number recorded last year.

The figures emerged that more than a dozen emergency workers in the north-east are targeted every week. Statistics released by the police show officers, paramedics and fire crew members were attacked 438 times between January and August this year.

Assistant Chief Officer Stuart Stevens, the fire service’s director of service delivery, said: “Attacks on emergency service workers are completely unacceptable.

“This type of behaviour not only prevents our crews from bringing any emergency to a safe and swift conclusion, but it can impact on our emergency service colleagues including the police when they must escort us at the scene.

“This type of behaviour is, of course, carried out by a very small minority and we once again thank our communities for their continuing support and working together with us to stay safe.”

Between 3.30pm and 11.30pm yesterday, firefighters attended 511 bonfires across Scotland – a significant increase from last year, when crews attended around 359 fires.

Andy Watt, head of service delivery for the north of Scotland, said: “We plan for a very busy night and from year to year there are fluctuations but it is always our busiest night of the year.

“It is very hard to say why the numbers went up this year.

“It has been a very difficult year for everybody and I don’t know whether that has contributed to the stats from Bonfire night or not.

“We work locally with local authorities and other partner agencies in the run-up to Bonfire night to identify unlicensed bonfires and the like and work to encourage people towards organised events and to mitigate the impact of bonfire night.

“Possibly the cancellation of events has had a knock-on effect.

“That may well have played a part but it is very hard to put your finger on exactly what the reason was but I think there was perhaps a number of things that played into it.”

A full debrief will now take place to discover if any lessons can be learnt for next year, with Mr Watt adding: “I would like to encourage people to be vigilant across the weekend and coming days because I know that people will still be wanting to use fireworks and I would ask them to follow our advice, follow the firework code and don’t take any risks at all.

“Look after yourselves when using fireworks.

“It is unacceptable that emergency workers are attacked in the course of their work trying to protect the public.

“Our crews, officers and operational control staff were exceptional and displayed incredible dedication and professionalism in how they dealt with the high volume of incidents.”

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