THE job of a firefighter is far from easy. However, it would appear that a career in the fire service in the Bolton area has become particularly hazardous. Besides white knuckle rides to answer 999 calls, fierce blazes, dense smoke, falling masonry and floods, they face threats and attacks of physical violence.

In the latest incident, fire crews responded to a call following an arson attack on a car. They put that one out, then spotted a man walking away from a second car, which had been similarly torched. He fled when asked to stop and was chased by firefighters, but pulled a claw hammer from bags he was carrying and waved it menacingly at his pursuers.

Watch commander Gary Hodson, later succinctly summing up the situation, said his crew had to stop chasing the suspect as they were “not equipped to deal with that situation”. He was absolutely correct. The job of fire crews is to deal with fires, and they are kept busy, judging by the number of arson attacks reported in this publication. It was not the first time firefighters had been targeted when answering emergency calls. How long it will be before body armour, military helmets and armed escorts are needed to provide so vital a public service?

Those must be the thoughts of paramedics, threatened with being shot after answering a call to treat an injured toddler during a disgraceful incident when an ambulance was vandalised. One has to ask, what role are the police meant to play in this and similar scenarios, where firefighters or paramedics on emergency call-outs are threatened, even attacked, by mindless yobs and thugs. Are we at the stage where police need to accompany emergency crews to guarantee their safety? It is very much looking that way.

It has now become painfully obvious to all but the seriously optimistic that the term “Broken Britain”, describing the level of lawlessness in many towns and cities, applies with particular significance to Bolton. And before anyone from city hall mounts a protest, that is not just my opinion. Have a good look around at smashed phone boxes and bus shelters, burnt-out bins and vehicles, rubbish-strewn streets, read reports of people attacked and robbed in their homes, then tell me everything in the garden is lovely. It aint. It will get progressively worse until someone in authority, of whatever political persuasion, decides to do something about law enforcement, angled in favour of those who break it.

Ask any copper for their opinion. They will give it, under the cover of anonymity. Officers, serving and retired, have done so in conversations with me, and it wouldn’t make comfortable reading for many at Westminster.

Perhaps the answer, certainly in the case of firefighters given a hard time by nutters, would be to turn the high pressure hoses on their attackers. I know that might not go down too well with advocates of Political Correctness and Human Rights, but they might change their opinions if they had to face the kind of boorish behaviour endured by our emergency services.

A few shifts on the front line would do the trick.