CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Anger as firefighters are attacked at scene of Camden Town blaze

'For anyone to assault firefighters while they carry out their duties is appalling'

03 January, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

POLICE are investigating after firefighters were allegedly attacked while responding to a blaze below a block of flats in Camden Town.

Camden’s fire commander Simon Tuhill said it was “totally unacceptable” that crew members were physically assaulted on Saturday in Inverness Street. A man has been arrested.

Twenty-five firefighters from Kentish Town, Soho and Euston had been called at 3.50am to a blaze in an external bin room.

Two crew members were allegedly struck while trying to access the block of flats to conduct a search for residents who may have still been inside, according to Mr Tuhill.

He said their injuries were not serious, but the attacks had left firefighters shaken.

Mr Tuhill told the New Journal: “It’s not the sort of thing you expect and it doesn’t happen that often.

“When you’re going about your business and doing a job trying to make sure everyone is okay, you do not expect to be stopped and hampered by members of the public.”

Recently-released figures show how reported physical assaults on firefighters in Camden are rare – with only one logged since 2015. However, during those four years, there were 15 verbal assaults. The Mayor of London statistics show that verbal assaults are slowly rising across the capital. In 2015, there were 37, jumping to 48 the following year.

In 2017, there were 49, rising to 52 until early December last year. Physical attacks peaked at six last year.

Mr Tuhill said the fire brigade would be “keeping an eye” on reports of assaults and will be visiting Inverness Street to carry out community safety work, such as fitting fire alarms.

Paul Embery, from the Fire Brigades Union, said of last week’s incident: “For anyone to assault firefighters while they carry out their duties is appalling. Their job is difficult enough, without having to face physical and verbal abuse.”

The fire, which destroyed the bin room, was brought under control just after 5am. A woman and child left the building before the fire brigade arrived and one person was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.

The Met Police said the cause of the fire was being treated as “unexplained”.

Andy Roe, London Fire Brigade assistant commissioner, said: “It is unacceptable that firefighters were targeted while responding to an emergency 999 call. Fortunately, no firefighters were badly injured and no one was taken to hospital.”

He added: “We will not tolerate attacks on firefighters and are working closely with our colleagues at the Metropolitan Police Service.”

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