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WE'VE HAD ENOUGH OF ATTACKS; Firefighters back our yob campaign.

Byline: IAN FANNON

FIREFIGHTERS who have been attacked, bricked, and even shot at by youths whilst doing their job have backed the ECHO's Shop A Yob campaign.

They say education is the key to convincing unruly thugs that violent and anti-social behaviour is unacceptable.

And they have taken it upon themselves to get into schools to drive home the message.

Merseyside Fire Service spokesman Alex McDougal said: ``There is no doubt education and engagement is the key so they become our friends, not our enemies.''

He said youth disorder is a major problem for firefighters in several parts of the region.

One hotspot is Stockbridge Village, Knowsley, where the mobile police `yob tank' was being stationed today in Water Park Drive.

Last October, Huyton fireman Frank Hill was shot in the back with a ball-bearing gun as his fire engine was surrounded by a gang of 30 youths on the village's Boode Croft estate.

He was trying to stop the teenagers stealing the engine's life-saving equipment.

Mr Hill, who branded the youths ``animals'', suffered only bruising, as his thick tunic prevented the pellet breaking his skin.

For a month after the attack, crews heading to parts of Stockbridge Village were escorted by police CCTV vans, which helped reduce attacks.

Another Huyton fireman needed hospital treatment after being hit in the eye with an egg; the same October night youths hurled bricks at a crew in Anfield.

Mr McDougal said such attacks have been happening for decades, particularly around Bonfire Night.

They regularly give talks at schools and a special team of firefighters works with children expelled from school.

The youngsters are sent on courses of up to 12 weeks, where they spend every day at a fire station learning what firefighters do.

Mr McDougal explained: ``We teach them how to put out fires and rescue pretend casualties from car fires.

``By the end they gain new qualifications and often form a close bond with our firefighters.

``Those children then become our ambassadors back in their schools and peer groups.''

The police yob tank was relocated to Stockbridge Village today after three days in Halewood. It will move to Sefton on Wednesday.

CAPTION(S):

SHOT: Firefighter Frank Hill was hit in the shoulder with a ball-bearing fired from a gun
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 15, 2003
Words:379
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