Home>Fire>Fire and Rescue >Firefighter assault statistics released

Firefighter assault statistics released

24 November 2017

THE NATIONAL Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) has voiced its anger after the Home Office revealed the number of assaults on firefighters.

New statistics from the Home Office show almost 750 firefighters in England were attacked when attending operational incidents between April 2016 and March 2017.

This is the first time these statistics have been released and the report gives information where the firefighters experienced an attack while attending operational incidents. This includes attending an incident and travelling to or from an incident.

NFCC chair Roy Wilsher said: “It is shocking that firefighters who are attending incidents are being attacked while doing their jobs. All firefighters work tirelessly to keep communities safe, often putting their own lives in danger in the line of duty. I am both saddened and angry to see these figures.

“Although attacks happen at a small percentage of incidents, any attack on firefighters is one too many and we cannot tolerate this continuing to happen. I am also deeply concerned by the number of attacks on our emergency service paramedic and police colleagues.”

The Home Office produced the report in response to ‘The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill 2017–19’. It aims to give background information for future debates and providing quality assured and publicly available statistics. NFCC fully supports this bill and will work with partners to reduce attacks on emergency service and other public sector workers.

The report ‘Statistics on the number of incidents involving an attack on firefighters: England, April 2016 to March 2017’ show: 

  • In 2016/17 there were 738 incidents involving an attack on firefighters, an increase of 116 on the previous year;
  • The total number has fluctuated since 2010/11, when there were 867 incidents involving an attack on firefighters;
  • The percentage of incidents where attacks have occurred has remained at around 0.1% of all incidents;
  • The majority of incidents involving an attack involved verbal abuse (55%, 403 incidents in 2016/17);
  • A further 28 per cent involved objects being thrown at firefighters and /or appliances (206 incidents); and
  • In 2016/17, there were 56 injuries in total from these 738 incidents

Attacks recorded include: Harassment, Objects thrown at firefighters/appliances, verbal abuse, physical abuse and other acts of aggression.

The statistics were sourced from the Home Office’s online Incident Recording System (IRS). It provides a count of the number of incidents that involved an attack on firefighters not the number of attacks, as more than one firefighter could have been attacked at one incident.

Fire Bridges Union national officer Dave Green said: “Violent attacks on firefighters are opportunistic and thankfully rare.  The vast majority of attacks are not serious, and they are usually born out of a lack of education and a lack of understanding of the neutrality of the firefighter role.

"We as the firefighters’ union favour a preventative rather than a punitive approach to this worrying problem.  Firefighters wearing cameras to ‘catch criminals’ just isn’t how our members want to work – there is no evidence that this would reduce attacks.  In fact, there is a fear that cameras could exacerbate attacks on firefighters.  

"We would prefer to increase our engagement with young people through targeted community initiatives as a way of building lasting, positive relationships which have long term benefits for firefighters and the communities they serve. The fire service provides a humanitarian service, and it is not a law enforcement agency.”

Shadow fire minister Chris Williamson commented: “Every day, firefighters in this country risk their lives, often exposing themselves to danger. Recent statistics that show an increase in the number of attacks on firefighters are deeply troubling.

“It is important to ensure that lessons are learned to reverse this trend.  The FBU has stated that the majority of attacks on firefighters are opportunistic and carried out by young people, often occurring in areas with poor housing and few youth services.  Any solution to this problem must be rooted in investment in local communities and education work.  The fire and rescue service has a long history of community involvement and as such can play a central role.”