Fire fighters attacked with stones and bottles
Emergency workers call for mandatory sentencing for those who attack first responders
John Kidd, national secretary of the Irish Fire and Emergency Services Association speaking to the media following a recent court case involving the prosecution of Wicklow County Council. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times
Firefighters who were attacked with a beer keg, stones and bottles last night have renewed their call for mandatory sentencing for those who carry out such assaults on emergency workers.
Firefighters from Dublin and Waterford are also seeking workplace psychological support and a new compensation scheme for those injured in the line of duty.
On Halloween night members of Dublin Fire Brigade were attacked – some of them several times – as they attended fires across the city.
In one incident in Belcamp, Dublin, a fire tender’s windscreen was shattered by a stone.
Fire officers said the incident involved gangs of youths stoning the tender and fire officers as they arrived to deal with an outsized bonfire.
In a similar incident in the same night in Swords fire fighters discovered a knife attached to a branch, in what they claim was an attempt to “booby-trap” the bonfire.
They point to on-going incidents in which serious injuries have been received by firefighters - with some firefighters injured multiple times.
Earlier this month a man who called out a Dublin Fire Brigade ambulance on a Dublin street turned on the paramedics while they were treating him, head butting them in the face. There was garda evidence in court that the man had also swung a bottle at the paramedics.
The man received a suspended sentence after he brought €1,000 in compensation to court, which the judge directed to the firefighters benevolent fund.
One of the Dublin Fire Brigade officers providing assistance on that occasion had also been previously attacked on his way to an emergency.
Jonathan Forbes received severe facial injuries when a man threw an unopened bottle of beer in the window of a fire tender as Mr Forbes was rushing to a fire in Clontarf. The bottle struck Mr Forbes in the face causing him 35 stitches, a chipped bone and severe bruising.
In other recent incident a brick was thrown in the window of a fire tender in Tallaght and there have also been a number of incidents where laser lights have been directed at engine drivers and crews in an apparent attempt to block their vision.
John Kidd, general secretary of the Irish Fire and Emergency Services Association, said Halloween was the busiest and most dangerous time of year for fire crews and emergency personnel.
He said fire crews were concerned about attacks in Waterford in advance of Halloween.
He also said the number of attacks on the 800-strong members in the Dublin Brigade fire fighters was now running at 300 a year.
He pointed to a 2008 study by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland which found that more than one fifth of the service, some 22 per cent, had been physically assaulted more than ten times in the past year.
The study entitled Dublin Fire Brigade: Violence In The Workplace And Occupational Stress In The Control Room, a copy of which has been seen by The Irish Times, also showed that almost some 96 per cent of staff members had experienced some form of violence during their career.
Nearly three quarters of respondents, some 72 per cent, reported having been verbally abused and 42 per cent reported having been threatened more than ten times in the past year.
“We are calling for mandatory sentences for those convicted of attacks on emergency services”, said Mr Kidd.
“We also require proper psychological counselling for members and a system of compensation, similar to that in place for members of the gardaí, he said.