Borba firefighters attacked in their own station in the early hours of Saturday morning by a group of 20 people of ‘gypsy origin’ are described as “very affected psychologically”’ by the incident.
Police have since ‘identified’ three of those believed to have been involved while the Minister of Internal Administration has tried to play the drama down, saying the overall image of Portugal as a safe country persists.
Nonetheless, firefighters have taken to social media to explain that “these situations make it increasingly hard to attract people into the volunteer service”.
The page of Borba’s volunteer firefighters stresses: “We assure the whole population that we will continue to try and help and provide assistance as much as possible, maintaining the safety of our men and women in first place”.
First responders came to the firefighters’ own call for help, and “together we will do everything we can to continue to assure nighttime emergency cover”, said the statement – suggesting this is not the first time authorities have encountered problems of this kind.
The incident began shortly after midnight (as Friday moved to Saturday).
A group of “approximately 20 people of gypsy origin arrived at the fire station to make an alleged request for assistance for someone who was unconscious, but they weren’t”, explains Jornal de Notícias.
One of the firefighters at the station asked the group if anyone had called 112. They apparently said no, but that help had to be given then and there.
“When one of the firefighters explained that to give assistance a request for help has to be activated, one of the elements in the group attacked him with two punches”, fire station commander Joaquim Branco told the paper.
At that point, the men on duty shut the station’s doors and this appears to be when ‘all hell let loose’.
Windows were broken, members of the group stormed into the station – and four firefighters on duty had to barricade themselves into their engines.
In the chaos, a second fireman was hurt by flying glass.
The invasion played out until GNR police arrived at the scene.
Say updates today, the three people formally identified have not been arrested.
The case now will ‘follow the usual procedures’ through the Public Ministry.
Curiously, initial reports described the group as ‘of gypsy origin’, but subsequent texts have simply described them as a group of people.
Quizzed over the incident yesterday, Minister for Internal Administration Eduardo Cabrita said he stood in solidarity with the firefighters of Borba but that “fundamentally, Portugal maintains itself as a reference in security”