A DEDICATED Watch Manager of almost 30 years’ firefighting service was last night hit by a firework aimed at a crew from Blackley who were tackling a bonfire in Crumpsall Park, Ash Tree Road, Manchester.
Firefighters were called to the scene just after 8.45pm yesterday (31 October). As 50 year-old WM Paul Marston and a colleague approached the blaze in the south side of the park, a group of roughly 15 youths dressed in black began to aim lighted fireworks in their direction.
As WM Marston turned to return to the fire engine, a firework ricocheted off his colleague and lodged under the back of his helmet, burning hair and skin. Remarkably, other than a small burn above his right ear, the Watch Manager is otherwise physically unharmed – he was treated with a burns pack at the scene before requiring further assessment at North Manchester Hospital.
Speaking the morning after the attack, WM Marston said: “I have been a firefighter for Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Service for 27 years and have never before been injured in an attack – all we were doing was responding promptly and professionally to an emergency call. I’m Manchester born and bred and work hard to help protect my community – it’s my job, I’m proud to serve, but I must confess last night’s incident has shaken me.
“I’d not been on shift for two hours before we were called to the park. As we approached the bonfire I saw a group of youngsters and my intention was to go over and speak to them about fire safety. But as soon as we saw fireworks being lit we got a sense of what was about to happen.
“When I was hit, the pain wasn’t the thing I remember most clearly but the impact followed by the horrible smell of burning hair. It lodged inside my helmet and, as we were retreating from the scene, I struggled to get it off. I’m very grateful to my colleagues on White Watch and the staff at the hospital for their medical treatment.
“I’ll be honest, in the hours that followed I felt furious. But I soon calmed down and have actually stayed on shift all night – it’s my responsibility to be at work, protecting my local community. But the next time I’m called to an incident like a bonfire or other small fire in a public space I expect last night will be on my mind.”
Watch Manager Paul Marston
Earlier this week a GMFRS crew from Hollins came under attack when a bottle was thrown at a fire engine while firefighters were responding to reports of a fire in the open in Limeside Park in Oldham.
Thankfully no-one was hurt and the fire engine was not damaged, but the Fire Service is reminding people about the potential consequences of anti-social behaviour.
Jim Wallace, Chief Fire Officer for Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Service, said: “Incidents such as last night’s at Crumpsall Park are deeply shocking. I’m relieved WM Marston is safe and well but the reality is the incident could have been so much more serious. Firefighters put their bodies on the line protecting communities right across Greater Manchester – it is a dangerous enough job without thoughtless anti-social individuals posing a real risk to someone’s safety, even their life.
“I want to praise WM Marston for his coolness and calmness under pressure and the fact he stayed on duty, serving his community through the night, is testament to the man. But his experience has, shockingly, not been an isolated one this week. As we enter a particularly busy time for the Fire Service, with fireworks and bonfires a regular feature for the next week or so, the last thing we need is firefighters and fire engines made unavailable.
"One injury to a firefighter or one damaged Fire Service vehicle is one fewer resource we have available to us to help keep people safe. Help us to help you and please respect your emergency services.”
Last year the government introduced new legislation to protect emergency personnel while on duty and individuals who attack or assault emergency service workers could face long jail terms.
The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill created a new offence of “assault against an emergency worker in the exercise of their functions’” – the Bill covers emergency workers, including the fire service, search and rescue services, police, prison officers, custody offers and ambulance personnel.
Bev Hughes, Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester, added: “News that a firefighter was attacked with a firework and sustained injury while out on duty last night working to keep his community safe is shocking. Everyone has a right to dignity and respect at work and, considering the dangerous and demanding nature of a firefighter’s job, it baffles and angers me that someone might be targeted in this way.
“We do see a rise in incidents of this nature as the dark nights set in and we will bear down strongly against anyone who attacks any of our emergency services personnel. In this case, it could so easily have been tragic.”
Chief Inspector Kirsten Buggy from GMP’s City of Manchester division said: “We were shocked to hear of this incident and we are thankful this mindless attack didn’t result in more serious injury. Emergency workers are putting their lives in danger on a daily basis to ensure the safety and security of members of the public, and they shouldn’t have to face further danger.
“We have been making numerous enquiries since last night and are appealing to anyone who witnessed this incident, or may know who these youths are, to get in touch with the local neighbourhood police team. Anyone with information should contact police on 0161 856 6516 quoting reference 3531 of 31/10/19 or anonymously using the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”
Treacle is a multi-agency campaign working to keep our communities safe during the Halloween and Bonfire period.
Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS), Greater Manchester Police (GMP), local councils, Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) are working together to prevent harm, protect our communities and tackle anti-social behaviour and criminal damage.
All the partners want to support the communities of Greater Manchester to enjoy a safe Halloween and Bonfire night.
For further information and safety advice go to: https://www.manchesterfire.gov.uk/staying-safe/safe4autumn-treacle/
Article Published: 01/11/2019 11:11 AM