Huge supply of fireworks seized in run-up to Bonfire Night 2020
The annual event usually marks the busiest time for emergency services, with the threat of attack another factor they need to consider while carrying out their life saving work, on top of the national coronavirus lockdown.
But bosses think prevention work in previous months to take fireworks off the streets and clampdown on antisocial behaviour paid dividends, despite the continued actions of an “irresponsible” minority.
“Leading up to Bonfire Night we seized 90kg of explosive material,” said Peter Heath, assistant chief fire officer (ACFO) at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS).
“To put that into context, that’s just the part of the firework which has the explosive – this would fill two or three Transit vans.
“This was either illegal [fireworks] or fireworks being sold inappropriately.
“Most of those were fireworks which would not be considered suitable for domestic use, so hopefully this helped reduce injuries.”
He was speaking at a meeting of the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority, held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.
TWFRS received more than 450 calls on Bonfire Night alone, which was also the first say of a new national COVID-19 lockdown in England.
Previous years have seen firefighters abused, including an infamous incident in which crew members were attacked with bricks and bottles in Southwick, in Sunderland.
But Cllr Alex Samuels, a Sunderland City Councillor for the area, said this time around she was not even aware of any illegal bonfires being started, which she claimed was down to preparation by the brigade and police.
This work was also praised by Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness.
Despite some successes however, the danger emergency service workers face on a daily basis remains a concern for senior members of the fire authority.
Gateshead councillor Kevin Dodds, a former firefighter, said: “This isn’t anything new.
“I joined the service in 1983 and I remember being escorted by the police into areas to tackle bonfires because of attacks on firefighters.
“It’s not just during the Bonfire Night period where there are attacks on firefighters, it’s throughout the year and it’s not just firefighters – it’s police, it’s ambulance drivers, it’s hospital staff.
“It’s a disgrace.”