“ALL through the year we are called out and people are grateful. Around this time of year, you tend to get abuse.”

This is the concern for a lifesaving branch of the emergency services in Winsford. More accurately, it is the issue playing on the minds of those who live and work in our community.

Firefighters – valued and taken for granted in equal measure for the rest of the year – have traditionally faced vitriol and aggression at this time of year.

Crews are regularly attacked by groups of children throwing rocks, bottles and fireworks, having responded to emergency calls not knowing what they might find.

This is a group of community servants whose job ranges from putting out our house fires to cutting us from car wreckages, available to us at any hour of the day as they rush from their homes and jobs to help.

And yet, when I join them ‘on the pump’ on the Saturday before Bonfire Night, I am handed a helmet and warned not to leave the truck until the crew have checked we won’t be assaulted.

“I can see a slow improvement – every year it is getting better, for us anyway,” says on-call firefighter Jamie Buckley, who works in the town. “Five years ago was quite bad.”

The crew and Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service as a whole has put a lot of effort into preventing such attacks and engaging with the community in recent years.

Between calls on Saturday night, firefighters handed families free tickets to the Barton Stadium display.

This is the fifth bonfire period the crew has spent driving around town as opposed to their normal ‘on-call’ roles.

Ben Johnston, crew manager, explained: “The main difference at this time of year is we’re out in the community looking for fires, just to make sure people are safe.

“It’s not about ruining anyone’s day or spoiling the fun – if there is a fire going on which is controlled and it’s safe and it’s supervised by an adult we are happy to keep it burning.

“Throughout the year that’s generally not the case with fires in the open, we would put them out. At this time of year we do have more of a lenient approach.”

Despite the good intentions of the crew, the natural response of anyone who sees a fire truck when enjoying a bonfire with friends and family is to go on the defensive.

We receive an emergency call to a large bonfire in Alamein Drive, shorty after dark, and the sirens go on.

It’s a safe fire, away from buildings and cars, being enjoyed by a large group of adults and children – a call recorded as false alarm with good intent – but the crew is greeted by a teenage girl telling them ‘if you put this out, I’ll put you out’.

“We want to be changing that mentality,” Ben said.

“All through the year we are called out and people are grateful. Around this time of year you tend to get abuse – they think you are there to put things out and that’s it.

“People straight away are defensive when we turn up but, nine times out of 10 and if it’s safe, we leave. That’s our first priority – to make sure it’s safe.

“Moreso around this time of year, we are targeted. If crews have been out and are targeted as they have been this past week, then when we go out and there is a large group of kids – supervised or not – they instantly start walking towards you.

“A group of 20 or 30 kids walking towards you and shouting, saying you’re not doing this, you’re not doing that, can sometimes be intimidating. You don’t know whether they have anything on them they could start throwing.”

Jamie added: “During the day we are doing out normal jobs as anyone else does. It’s just that when that alert goes off we jump on the fire truck.

“I don’t know how many people realise that – you are just living a day-to-day life until somebody wants you, and then you’re on and you’re out.

“Throughout the year when we turn up they want us to come because something is going wrong. On Bonfire Night people presume we’re there to spoil the fun.

“It’s not just the kids, it’s adults as well saying ‘you’re not putting this out’.

“We are not here to do that, we are not there to ruin the fun, and once people realise that you can stand there for 10 minutes and have a good chat.”