herald

Saturday 20 October 2018

Firefighters ambushed and attacked on the job

Two large metal bins were set alight to lure firefighters in so youths could attack
Two large metal bins were set alight to lure firefighters in so youths could attack

Large bins were set alight and used to block a north Dublin road on Friday night by youths intent on ambushing and attacking firefighters.

It was a typical incident for Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) in the lead-up to Halloween, although it can happen at any time of year.

Firefighters were aware of the incident for almost an hour, but would not go in to deal with it until gardai arrived to provide protection.

Two fire engines were att-acked earlier in the evening, one in north Dublin and the other in the west of the city.

Gang

While clearing the scene at on the north side of the city Peter Sherlock, the station officer of A Watch Phibsboro, said his team arrived 35 minutes earlier, only to be greeted by a gang of teenagers who had been waiting behind a wall to attack the engine.

"We're getting out of here until gardai arrive," said Mr Sherlock, and the tender returned to Tara Street Fire Station until it was safe to attend again.

"This was definitely an ambush. The bins were actually brought up here, put in the middle of the road and set on fire. What other reasons could there have been?

"When we arrived here, there's bushes beside us and there were about 10 youths standing, all in dark clothing, some with a scarf up over their face."

Last week, DFB had more than 70 call-outs in relation to bonfires. That number will soar tomorrow night.

Tara Street's district officer, Derek Cheevers, who took the Herald to different locations across the city, said the days leading up to Halloween could sometimes be even more chaotic.

"There's a public expectation that there will be bonfires on Halloween night and people don't ring us on that basis, but it's a busy week in general," he said.

"Our big issue is the safety of firefighters. We'll send a response to every call to our control room, but when we arr-ive on the scene we undertake a risk-benefit analysis.

"If the risk outweighs the benefit of putting out the fire, we're not going to proceed until we have additional resources, which could be gardai.

"When it's property that's threatened, that changes the dynamic. If it's a bonfire that's threatening a house, we'll do everything in our power to extinguish that straight away.

"If it's a bonfire in the middle of a field, surrounded by youths, there's no point in us going in there, putting out the fire and antagonising them.

"They've taken time to build that bonfire, to light it, and they're not going to be happy with us putting it out, so the likelihood is they're possibly going to attack us."

DFB has taken preventative measures for issues like this and firefighters are targeting primary schools in order to get the message across.

The brigade has already given talks to more than 2,200 schoolchildren this year, to explain, as Mr Cheevers said, that the people fighting the fires are human too.

"We're normal people. We're fathers, mothers and we've kids to go home to," he said.

Last year on Halloween day and night alone, DFB received 800 calls and attended the scene of 200 bonfires.

Similar numbers are expected tomorrow.

Animal cruelty is another common occurrence over Halloween, and although it may happen less frequently than in the past, it is still encountered,

Horrific

"I believe there were still issues last year. Some really horrific stuff has happened over the years to animals," said Mr Cheevers.

Separately, many young people suffer injuries relating to bonfires and fireworks every year.

"We see some horrific in- juries at this time of the year," Mr Cheevers said.

"Typically on Halloween night, our ambulances deal with over 240 calls.

"They can be burn injuries, traumatic amputations from handling fireworks that explode in people's hands, facial injuries, everything and anything.

"The quality of some fireworks is perhaps questionable. People light them in their hand, they've a short fuse and they explode. Typically, people lose fingers when a firework explodes in their hand."

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