Belfast Telegraph

Firefighters attacked in west Belfast as they deal with burning stolen car

BY CLAIRE WILLIAMSON

Youths launched an attack on firefighters as they tried to extinguish a burning stolen car in west Belfast.

The Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) also revealed that three important pieces of life-saving equipment were stolen from their fire engine as they dealt with the blaze.

Police said the green Hyundai Accent car was believed to have been driven erratically in the Albert Street area before being burnt out.

The area is notorious for joyriding, with a local gang – the Divis Hoods – believed to be behind many car thefts and hijackings across Belfast. Last night, Sinn Fein accused the PSNI of "walking away from their responsibility" in the area and said the Lower Falls community felt abandoned.

The attack took place on Wednesday just after 7pm, after the emergency services rushed to the scene. It is believed the vehicle was stolen from Mountjoy Street in the Shankill area about half an hour before it was set on fire.

"While dealing with the blaze, firefighters came under attack from youths throwing missiles, and three pieces of equipment were stolen," a NIFRS spokesman said.

"Fortunately, the firefighters were not injured and the appliance was not damaged. However, the stolen items – a collector head, a suction wrench, and T-bar –are important pieces of equipment and we are appealing for their return as soon as possible."

The spokesman said firefighters had been reassured by the immediate support received from local community representatives in condemning this attack.

"We realise that the people who carried out the attack and stole the equipment are not representative of the wider Lower Falls community," he said. "We would continue to appeal to the community, and also to parents, to help educate their children not to attack the emergency services."

West Belfast MP Paul Maskey condemned those involved and said he wanted to see immediate action from the PSNI to ensure those involved were brought before the courts.

"The people in that area certainly feel as though the PSNI have abandoned them," he said.

Sinn Fein MLA Fra McCann added: "All the local people have been saying one thing and they are unanimous that the police have walked away from their responsibility in this."

The PSNI said: "Police crews were dealing with other matters when the burning vehicle was reported and upon arrival of police crews, NIFRS had already left. Police patrolled the area for the rest of the evening."

The police are appealing for information.

QUOTE

"The police themselves have to build up a reputation and they will have to show they mean business and they have to show that they are doing all they can to make sure this comes to an end."

Paul Maskey MP

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