‘Don’t make a tough job even harder’ say London’s firefighters

Fire Brigade staff have been facing an increase in abuse and even attacks when dealing with life-threatening situations, including two assaults at incidents in Thornton Heath

Under attack: firefighters in London faced a busy month of grassfires in July – yet got abused for their efforts

The London Fire Brigade is calling for an end to abuse towards its staff, after figures released today – Emergency Services Day – show that last year there were 353 incidents of abuse towards firefighters and control staff.

Among the abuse and attacks were two occasions when firefighters were dealing with life-threatening incidents in Thornton Heath.

Last month, firefighters were assaulted and threatened by a man after being called to a bonfire in Thornton Heath. None were injured but the crew had to call police for backup as the situation escalated.

A 26-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of assaulting an emergency worker and has been bailed pending further inquiries.

In an earlier assault, last year, a firefighter was attacked while attending a fire at a block of flats in Thornton Heath. According to the LFB, “Had it not been for his helmet, he would have sustained serious head injuries.”

Earlier this year a crew of firefighters was threatened with a knife and spat on in Tottenham.

And just last week, a firefighter was bitten by a resident while attending a fire in Bermondsey. A 45-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of arson and on suspicion of assaulting an emergency worker.


New data shows there have been more than 870 reports of physical and verbal assaults against LFB staff from 2020 to date.

So far this year, there have been 69 occasions when crews have been physically or verbally abused, including a spike in July, when firefighters were dealing with one of the busiest periods in the Brigade’s history during the summer heatwaves.

Control Officers have also dealt with more than 140 abusive phone calls so far in 2022. Abuse to Control reached a five-year high last year with 248 incidents recorded.

The Brigade’s new Deputy Commissioner, Jonathan Smith, has called for an end to abusive behaviour against fire service staff and their blue lights colleagues and said the Brigade won’t hesitate to take action and support the police to bring criminal charges against perpetrators.

“It’s always disheartening to hear when a member of staff has been abused while doing their job,” he said.

“Any attack on an emergency service worker is abhorrent – whether it’s physical or verbal abuse.

“These people dedicate their lives to saving and protecting people and it’s appalling when they are ever hampered in doing this by aggressive members of the public.”

Deputy Commissioner Smith added: “We take all attacks on our staff incredibly seriously and have already put our weight behind the Assaults on Emergency Workers Act which increased sentencing guidelines for such attacks.

“If staff are on the receiving end of abuse, they are always supported by their manager and our Counselling and Trauma team if needed.

“I want to remind Londoners that whenever they see us or our blue light colleagues out and about – in what are often very difficult circumstances – please be kind and don’t make a tough job even harder.”

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