West Midlands Fire Service's pioneering CCTV initiative has been hailed a national success after the number of attacks on firefighters was halved.

The pilot scheme, costing about £37,500 and involving the installation of CCTV cameras on the outside of fire engines, has seen a 47 per cent drop in dangerous incidents in its first year.

However, latest figures show that nationwide, attacks on fire crews are still on the increase. According to the Fire Brigades' Union, about 40 attacks occur each week, with bricks, bottles, missiles and scaffolding poles thrown at vehicles.

While the FBU is calling for a national strategy to tackle the problem, the West Midlands is leading the way with its ground-breaking scheme.

Special vehicles, equipped with cameras in the cabs and emblazoned with CCTV along the sides, act as a deterrent and have helped secure criminal convictions.

After one incident a man was jailed for six months after he made a hoax call to

firefighters and then threatened them with a knife.

The CCTV scheme was introduced at Kings Norton fire station over a year ago, after problems with the number of attacks on personnel. Following its success, the cameras were introduced at 15 other stations and there are further plans to expand the scheme.

Nationwide, over the year, FBU figures show reported attacks reaching 2,000 although these figures could be as much as three times higher because of under-reporting.

Union officials said bricks, bottles and missiles were regularly thrown at crews, while fires had been set deliberately to lure crews into ambushes. Many were attacked when they become the targets of hoax 999 calls and equipment

Enthusiasts pick over the bones was stolen or tampered with. Andy Gilchrist, FBU general secretary, said: "These attacks are inexcusable and must not be tolerated. It can never be part of anyone's job to get a brick or bottle in the head, or to be spat at. There is no quick solution, but we need to start with a properly resourced national strategy rather than it being left to cash-strapped local fire services."