HUNDREDS of people dialled 999 last night frightened and concerned as Bonfire Night celebrations caused injury and devastation across Greater Manchester.
Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service had 55 fire engines covering the region with hundreds of firefighters on the run for what is traditionally its busiest night of the year. Despite this, so many calls were received that at the height of demand, half the fire serviceâ€™s resources were deployed at once.
Emergency calls peaked between 8pm and 9pm when more than one call per minute requesting assistance was received. In total, 300 calls were received between 3pm and 10pm â€“ an increase of 20 per cent on last year. By midnight, another 50 calls had been added to the work of busy firefighters and although the emergencies dropped off throughout the night, fire crews were still attending bonfire-related incidents until gone 6am this morning.
Serious incidents began before 5pm when a 14 year old girl was seriously injured when she was hit in the face by a firework in Pitt Street, Oldham. She was taken to Oldham Royal Hospital with an injury to her left eye.
Later in the evening, reports of youths and teenagers lighting fires and throwing fireworks came in from across the area. Hot spots including Ashton-in-Makerfield where cars were set alight and a telephone box, and there were similar incidents in almost every part of Greater Manchester including in parks and sporting facilities.
In the most shocking incidents, firefighters came under fire themselves. In particular they withdrew from Orient Street in Salford when youths hurled fireworks at them as they tried to extinguish a fire in a suspected stolen car.
One of the largest incidents broke out at a scrapyard in Nelstrop Road North, Manchester, which was reported at 4.45pm and was not completely extinguished until after 11pm. Firefighters struggled to bring it under control as debris including washing machines set alight creating toxic smoke.
Councillor David Acton, Chair of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Authority, condemned the youths who created unnecessary incidents on an already busy night and had a strong message for those who had turned on firefighters trying to keep communities safe.
He said: â€œOur message is clear: we wonâ€™t tolerate attacks on our firefighters of any description or of any nature. It is unacceptable behaviour and those responsible should be ashamed. Firefighters have a difficult job and it is utterly abhorrent to me that anyone would put them into dangerous situations they have deliberately created. To then hurl fireworks and other missiles at them is despicable.â€
In the run up to November 5, traditionally the busiest night of the year, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service campaigned for people to attend organised bonfires and fireworks displays and many people heeded these warnings and enjoyed the night.
Three of the areaâ€™s most well-known and biggest displays clocked up huge attendances including more than 37,000 visitors to Heaton Park, nearly 29,000 to Platt Fields and 21,500 to Wythenshawe Park.
Councillor Acton said: â€œAttending an organised display is safer and helps us cut down the number of private bonfires that cause people concern. We would like to thank everyone who acted responsibly and enjoyed bonfire night. It is a great tradition in this country but unfortunately spoiled by a few thoughtless people and mindless youths.â€