by Chris Young Local Democracy Reporter
Firefighters had to deal with a “significant increase” in Bonfire season incidents this year – and attacks on firefighters in the period also rose.
West Yorkshire Fire Service has released its final report into the 2020 Bonfire period, and it reveals that a mix of dry weather and the Covid 19 pandemic led to a big rise in the number of call outs to arsons or out of control fires compared to 2019.
And in Bradford, there were two incidents where firefighters were hit by missiles.
Overall there were 10 attacks on firefighters in West Yorkshire over the Bonfire period, with six of these being in Bradford.
The attacks mainly consisted of fireworks being thrown at fire engines that were responding to incidents.
One incident in the Dirkhill Road area on November 5 saw a firework aimed at fire crews hitting a firefighter on the helmet. The second, in the Stirling Crescent area on November 7 saw a stone thrown which struck a firefighter on the knee.
During the period, the busiest for the fire service each year, a “fire car” is sent out to many incidents. This is a vehicle that includes a fire fighter and police officer and responds to incidents that may not require a full fire crew and engine.
Over the Bonfire period, there were 11 attacks on fire cars, six of which were in Bradford.
It means overall there were 21 attacks on emergency services in West Yorkshire over the four day period, with 12 of these being in Bradford.
The report, which will go before West Yorkshire Fire Authority on Friday, says: “In relation to 2019, there was a significant increase in incident attendance; from 270 in 2019 to 399 in 2020.”
Members of the authority will be told that this rise may be down to a number of factors.
Weather over the period (November 4 to 7) was better than other years, and due to Covid restrictions, there were no major organised bonfires, leading to more people having smaller, unofficial celebrations.
The Service also usually works with local Councils and community groups to run “diversionary” events – giving young people other activities to engage with rather than get into trouble.
These events, as well as school visits by firefighters, also had to be cancelled due to restrictions on organised events.
The report says: “Much of the prevention work builds on educational themes, initiatives and prevention work completed throughout the course of the year. Our success relies heavily on strong links and collaborative working that has developed over a number of years with schools, community/faith groups, local authorities and the other blue light partners.
“This year, all of these links have been affected by Covid-19 localised restrictions and national lockdowns, not allowing for face to face meetings to occur.”
Many of the schemes aimed at reducing anti social behaviour over the period had to be moved online, and through social media awareness campaigns, the report says.
In Bradford there was a social media campaign featuring a video of local Imams speaking of the impact on local communities of anti social behaviour.
The report also reveals that extra staffing, and overtime pay, required due to the increase in incidents over the four day period cost the taxpayer an extra £37,982.