Police will escort firefighters on duty on New Year’s Eve in order to prevent them from being targeted by “unacceptable” attacks similar to those of last year.
Following a series of attacks against fire crew members in 2018, police escorts will be put in place this year and will follow a zero-tolerance policy against any potential aggressions.
“It happened several times last year that our staff were in danger,” a spokesperson with the fire department, Walter Derieuw, said.
“Young people set fires in a square to lure us there and then attack us,” he said, adding: “It is totally unacceptable and incomprehensible, we are coming to help and become victims of physical and verbal aggression.”
In past years, the number of calls to the fire or emergency services on new year’s eve has spiked by four times on average in comparison to other nights, De Standaard reports.
Unionist Dirk Van der Ougstraete said the police escorts were an unfortunate but necessary step to ensure first respondents’ safety, in what he said was an “unprecedented” situation.
“I have been working at the fire department for 32 years and I have never experienced this,” Van der Ougstraete said, adding that last year some fires could not be extinguished because there was nobody around to protect crew members from aggressions.