ATTACKS on firefighters in one of Scotland’s largest fire services have risen by more than a quarter in just one year.
As well as battling blazes, crews have been confronted by armed thugs and have even had to contend with attempted thefts of their fire engines.
Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue reported at least 46 violent attacks of staff attending fires in the region.
The figure is an increase of more than 25% since 2010 and the first increase in four years.
Incidents have included firemen being pelted with beer cans, bricks, eggs and even berries.
Other crew members have been threatened by yobs wielding pool cues and had cigarettes stubbed out on them.
Thugs have even tried to cut fire hoses to prevent crews tackling fires.
Fire chiefs have condemned the “senseless” attacks, saying that offenders are likely to be prosecuted.
Last year a 15-year-old boy was charged after attempting to steal a fire engine as a group of up to 30 other children threw eggs at the crew at a fire in Edinburgh.
But new laws mean it is possible to prosecute anyone who obstructs any member of the emergency services as they try to work.
David Lockhart, Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue community safety manager, said: “Any attack on operational firefighters is totally senseless. They play a vital role in the community, protection the public from fire and other emergencies.
“We now have added legislation in the form of the Emergency Workers Act, which has been used to successfully prosecute people who have impeded firefighters and other emergency service personnel from carrying out their duties.
“Although we have seen an increase in figures this year, over the longer term attacks are down and in part this is due to our continued efforts to educate the public about the need to respect firefighters and the risks of prosecutions should they choose not to.”
He added: “We’re always alert to the possibility of these kind of incidents, and as alcohol can often play a part, this is something we are very aware of over the festive period. We get a lot of support from the police if we attend an incident.”
In one incident in 2011 a group of small children ambushed one crew in the Niddrie area of the city and hurled bricks and rocks at them.
In another a gang of children aged between 16 and just six years old left a firefighter nursing an injury to his leg. They had attacked a group of six firefighters working in Bathgate, Midlothian and pelted them with stones while their back was turned.
In 2010 a homeowner threatened to attack firefighters with a pool cue before a gang of children began pelting them with eggs, berries and full cans of beer.
In 2006 more than 80 attacks were recorded by Lothian and Borders fire chiefs, their highest figure to date.
In that year crew members were punched, kicked, spat on and had dog faeces thrown at them.
In 2007, 50 attacks were recorded, dropping to 45 in both 2008 and 2009.