WHEN a lump of concrete was thrown through the window of his fire appliance, firefighter Phil Warden’s nose was fractured in 11 places.
And even though the attack took place more than a decade ago, Mr Warden continues to live in pain “every day” and faces further surgery on his face in the coming months as the profound effects of the attack persist.
Mr Warden, who is now watch manager at Odsal station in Bradford, has been with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service for 15 years.
He said: “When we go to put a fire out, we are doing it to make the public safe – we don’t expect to be abused.”
Special report: Attacks on fire crews ‘seen as badge of honour’ by offenders
The night he was injured, Mr Warden’s crew had been on an emergency call-out to tackle a house fire in Bradford when they were surrounded by a mob of between 20 and 30 youths.
The firefighters were then targeted by the mob, who threw bricks and stones at the fire appliance – including the lump of concrete which hit Mr Warden.
He was forced to take about six weeks off work to recover from the attack, but he still has to live with the injury he suffered.
Mr Warden, 40, said: “I’m in pain every day, it has an effect on my job and my home life. People don’t understand that we’re more than a uniform.”
He has taken part in West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s own initiative to highlight attacks on its firefighters, as well as the Protect the Protectors campaign, which has been overseen by the Labour MP for Halifax, Holly Lynch.
The campaign has led to the creation of the Assaults on Emergency Workers Bill, which is set to introduce tougher sentences on offenders.
“The police, the ambulance service, and the fire service – we’re all one team,” Mr Warden said. “A change in the law would make it better for all of us.”
Simon Rodgers, the manager of Central Station in Sheffield, has worked for South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service for 28 years and has witnessed first-hand attacks on his crews.
He told The Yorkshire Post that abuse against crews tended to be concentrated in certain areas of the city, such as Burngreave, Pitsmoor and Arbourthorne, as well as at specific times of year, particularly around Bonfire Night.
“It can range from verbal abuse to throwing things at an appliance, and sometimes, in some of the more hilly areas in Sheffield, setting fire to big industrial bins and pushing them down a hill at an appliance,” Mr Rodgers said.
“It makes me angry and frustrated that people are doing this sort of crime against the fire service because all we are trying to do is help people.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that certain people see the fire service an another face of the establishment – along with the police, council and schools.
“The Bill has the potential to help because if a gang sees one of their members prosecuted and getting a longer sentence, it will make the others think twice about doing it again.”