Fire-fighters were called out a total of eighty times on New Year's Eve. In most cases fire-fighters were called on to put out small fires but there were also three separate incidents during which they were attacked, chiefly by groups of youngsters.
Walter Derieuw, spokesman for the Brussels fire service, notes that on one occasion fire-fighters were pelted with stones as they tried to attack a fire. Over the course of 2018 Brussels fire-fighters were the target of 21 instances of verbal and physical aggression. Given the number of calls, that's not too bad, Mr Derieuw, concedes as the Brussels fire service was called out 100,000 times in all.
However, the spokesperson is keen to note that in general Brussels fire-fighters feel threatened: "Mainly, there is verbal aggression. I can't say it's linked to particular neighbourhoods. But there's a feeling that during each intervention there's verbal aggression that could derail."
Brussels fire-fighters are now seeking a clear signal from the authorities: "It has to stop here. The perpetrators need to be identified, sentenced and made to serve the appropriate sentences."
Sven Gatz, Flemish minister for Brussels, has voiced his support for the fire-fighters: suspects should be tried forthwith. Mr Gatz also criticised the Brussels police leadership: "This isn't the fault of police officers in the field, but at police zone level or even at the regional level the police need to be better prepared:
"We can't rule everything out or sort all problems, but now all that is being done is to draw up a list of the damage. It's not acceptable!"