Firefighters across the Belgian capital of Brussels are expected to be escorted by police officers during New Year’s Eve celebrations due to the high level of danger involved when operating in the city.
The new policy is largely designed to mitigate the violence against firefighters in the EU capital that was seen last year and will require that police escort the firefighters to and from incidents for their protection, La Libre reports.
While the measures are designed to protect firefighters in the line of duty, not all are happy about the need for police protection.
Public sector union SLFP representative Eric Labourdette commented on the move, saying: “We are going to have to escort firefighters who are going to rescue people. Is that normal? Not at all! We are in Belgium, not in a state of war! Politicians must, at some point, ask how we are arriving at such a situation, having to escort our rescuers.”
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“The politicians would not have taken action if they did not fear incidents. But removing the bins from the streets to avoid fires is of no use. And the next step, what will it be? Will we remove the cars, the bus shelters? The real problem is the lax approach to the behaviour of these young people who, last year, did not hesitate to trash everything in their path and to take it to the emergency services,” he added.
Labourdette went on to add that firefighters had been recently trained on how to react against aggression from the public but questioned why they should have to in the first place. “‘Is it normal to be here?’ I ask our politicians again. Soon, we will have to intervene to save lives while wearing bulletproof vests,” he said.
Violence against firefighters and police have become more common in various western European countries such as France where police have been attacked in several incidents this year, including a knife attack at a Paris police station that led to the death of four officers.