FIREFIGHTERS in East Lancashire had their busiest night of the year responding to almost 100 call-outs.
Crews from Nelson, Burnley, Rawtenstall, Hyndburn, Blackburn, Darwen and Chorley were called out constantly to deal with reports of uncontrolled bonfires and youths throwing fireworks on to fires.
Hyndburn fire station was busiest station, with 25 calls between 5pm on Saturday and 7am Sunday.
Crews in Burnley responded to 20 calls, Nelson 10, and Rawtenstall just 6.
On a normal evening fire stations deal with just a handful of calls across the area.
In Blackburn, teenagers fired large firework rockets at firefighters as they fought out-of-control bonfires.
Groups of ‘feral’ youths launched the missiles at fire crews as they attempted to put out fires causing a risk to nearby residents and buildings.
Blackburn crew manager Caroline Sturgess said her team had come under attack at the majority of their 24 call outs during the night.
The catalogue of attacks included:
- Dozens of fireworks being pelted in the direction of fire crews
- A fireman being hit in the leg with a firework
- Verbal abuse from parents allowing unsupervised children to jump on a mattress on the top a lit bonfire
- Teenagers throwing fireworks on to bonfires surrounded by unsuspecting spectators
Mrs Sturgess said: “Teenagers in Blackburn were completely feral on Saturday.
“A lot of them were carrying rucksacks full of fireworks and they were just setting them off wherever they felt like it.
“We were called out about 24 times throughout the night and I would say that on at least 60 per cent of those shouts we came under attack.
“There were large groups made up of around 10 to 12 teenagers launching rocket type fireworks at us and on to bonfires surrounded by innocent people.
“One of my firefighters was even hit in the leg with a firework, but luckily he was protected by his uniform.
“The fire service is not about ruining people’s fun, we only put out bonfires that were causing a serious risk to nearby buildings or ones that were not supervised by an adult.
“We were very lucky there was nobody seriously injured with the amount of fireworks that were being misused.”
One incident saw firefighters verbally abused by parents after they spotted children as young as nine jumping on a mattress on top of a lit bonfire in Shorrock Lane, Blackburn.
Fire crews from Darwen also came under attack as they responded to a job close to Larkhill Medical centre, in Mount Pleasant, Blackburn, after teenagers disagreed that an unsupervised bonfire was getting too close to the building.
Darwen watch manager Lee Cook said: “A number of youths set fire to a bonfire close to Larkhill Medical centre.
“They did not like our decision to put it out because it was getting too close to the building and they started launching fireworks at us.
“Luckily we were able to squirt water at the fireworks to divert their path.”
Firefighters also became moving targets in Robinson Street, Little Harwood, as youths tried to hit them with fireworks.
Police Community Support Officers were called in Burnley after a number of teens carrying bottles of booze turned up in Brownside Road to watch the Thornton Arms' organised fireworks display from over the wall.
A spokesman at the Thornton Arms said: “We had around 1,000 people turn up for Bonfire Night and we were only expecting 500.
“A number of kids turned up drunk in the earlier part of the night but with help from the police we managed to get rid of them.
“I can assure you all the fireworks were set off on time.
"Unfortunately, though a group of lads in their 20s started fighting late on in the evening and one of my female staff got hit in the face while trying to split up the fight.”
Vandals also failed to spoil the firework fun at Huntley’s Farm, Samlesbury, after setting the bonfire alight at 5am on Satuday.
Farmer Eddie Cowpe said: “There was 300 tons of timber on the bonfire, so it will take a few days to burn anyway.”
Firefighters in Nelson spent an hour fighting a deliberate blaze at Pendle Council’s Fleet Street depot after a large number of new wheelie bins were set alight shortly after 10.15pm on Saturday.
A spokesman for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service said many people reported supervised bonfires as uncontrolled, and it was “only those in inappropriate areas or those close to buildings" that were extinguished.