Emergency services across Northumberland and Tyne and Wear are joining forces in the hope that this year’s Bonfire period is one of the safest on record.
Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner; Northumbria Police; Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service and Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service are all committed to doing what they can to make sure that the coming Diwali, Halloween and Bonfire season is a safe and happy one for everyone – and that includes their own staff.
This year, the services are uniting behind the use of the TWFRS’ Ryan’s Regret film, which featured the real-life story of a young man from Washington, who by playing with fireworks in his bedroom, received significant injuries to his hand.
It’s a graphic and shocking account, which has provided real impact especially during the fire services’ school visits, in conjunction with Northumbria Police.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird said: "This is a busy time for our emergency services who do a fantastic job and it's so important that we work together using our respective strengths to ensure the safety of everyone within our communities.
"I want people to have fun and enjoy themselves, while staying safe and out of harm's way.
"This campaign of activity will encourage people to take heed to the advice of both the police and fire and rescue services."
The campaign is also focusing on the associated candle risks to the general public during Diwali, through to Halloween and onto risks from fireworks over the Bonfire weekend. It also consists of:
· School visits to show children the Ryan’s Regret film and talk to them about the dangers of firework misuse
· Posters, highlighting the risks to young people from firework misuse and the unacceptable risks faced by firefighters from attacks, which will appear in the windows of empty shops at the Intu Shopping Centre, and throughout other local shopping centres
· Support from Newcastle Utd, with a photoshoot prior to their match against Crystal Palace on October 21st
· TWFRS Firefighter attendance at Sunderland Football Club’s Fan Fest on October 23rd, and in their family stand at the match against Bristol City on October 28th
· The Ryan’s Regret film will be shown at Whitley Bay’s Jam Jar Cinema and Lounge Bar, prior to each showing
· A high profile social media campaign will receive active support throughout its duration from regional celebrities, including Alan Shearer; Newcastle Utd; Sunderland AFC; Newcastle Falcons; actor/comedian Chris Ramsay; Hollyoaks actor, Ross Adams; Miss Newcastle, Alisha Cowie; Miss Teen Newcastle Jazmine Nichol and many more.
TWFRS Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther, who will be working the nightshift with Gateshead’s Red Watch, said: We know that for many people in our community, Diwali, Halloween and Bonfire Night are great family occasions.
"But sadly, there are also some people who will deliberately misuse fireworks – risking their own lives, the lives and property of others and think it’s acceptable to physically and verbally abuse firefighters and our appliances.
"After everything the firefighter community has been through this year, it seems incredible to me that we come under attack by those we risk our lives to protect.
"Our messages are clear: we are here to ensure you enjoy a safe Bonfire period; but fireworks are dangerous and can injure, kill and destroy.
"Attacks – of any kind – on our firefighters will not be tolerated and we will work very closely with Northumbria Police to ensure any perpetrators are caught and prosecuted.”
All emergency services are urging families to go to organised firework displays – details of which can be found on the TWFRS website.
They are also advising that families who are celebrating Diwali and Halloween take care with the use of candles, and ensure that children don’t wear loose clothes around them.
They should also make sure that fancy-dress costumes comply with EC standards and are made from flame retardant material.
Paul Hedley, Chief Fire Officer at Northumberland Fire and Rescue said, "Bonfire night should be an enjoyable experience for all, however, recklessness with bonfires and fireworks can have devastating effects.
"Where possible, we encourage residents to visit organised public firework displays which are safer, great value and usually much more impressive, however, if anyone is planning their own firework display then we urge them to follow our safety advice very carefully."
Recent years have seen an increase in fire-related incidents over this period, and also an increase in attacks on firefighters and other emergency services personnel. Last year attacks on firefighters during the bonfire weekend increased from 4 in 2015 to 9.
Northumbria Police Assistant Chief Constable, Rachel Bacon, said: "If fireworks are not used in the correct manner it can lead to disastrous consequences.
"We’re working closely with all partners, giving advice to members of the public to ensure they enjoy a fun and safe Bonfire night and Halloween. Extra officers will be on patrol around this period. I want to encourage anyone with any concerns to call us without hesitation."