POLICE were out filming on the streets of Sheffield last night - hunting for lawless yobs who hurled fireworks and bricks at houses, shops, police cars and fire engines in a terrifying outbreak of mayhem.
Up to 80 out-of-control thugs went on the rampage in Abbeydale, Tinsley and Darnall on Monday night, where firefighters and police had fireworks launched at them after being lured to blazes started by arsonists.
Staniforth Road was shut after up to 50 youths dragged blazing wheelie bins into the road and threw stones at passing cars.
Buses were diverted after one service was ambushed by yobs who assaulted the driver and set off fireworks on the bus.
In Tinsley, fire crews were targeted on Lifford Street and Tinsley Green, where police officers called as back-up also came under fire and two police vehicles were damaged.
More policemen were targeted on Abbeydale Road, where terrified residents dialled 999 to report rival gangs with rockets and bangers shooting fireworks at each other.
They said the yobs, also armed with baseball bats and metal bars, lobbed fireworks at passing cars and set them off in the middle of the road.
Chief Inspector Iain Chorlton, of South Yorkshire Police, said of the Bonfire Night violence: “It was mob mentality. There were up to 50 youths in Darnall and 30 in Abbeydale who all came together.
“It was the height of stupidity and they really were putting lives at risk.
“The scale and seriousness of the incidents has disappointed us, as we’ve been planning for this period for six months and had extra resources on the ground.
“We have done a lot of work with our partners to put on extra activities for young people, but they were still hellbent on causing trouble.”
Chief Insp Chorlton said five arrests were made on Monday and fireworks were seized.
Extra police patrols were put on last night.
“Last night we escalated our reponse and officers used handheld and helmet cameras to film those involved in disorder so we could gather evidence needed to take them to court,” he said.
The Rude Shipyard cafe on Abbeydale Road had a rocket fired through its window, and residents on the busy main road had fireworks aimed at their homes.
Amanda Whitley, aged 35, who confronted some of the yobs, said she feared someone would die.
“I went outside and asked between 10 and 15 of them to stop throwing fireworks at homes and into the road,” she said. “My husband confronted them too and they started throwing rockets at him - he had to run away.
“I was frightened - I have never known anything like it. It was like gang warfare out there, rival groups armed with weapons ready to fight.
“It was obvious they were intent on trouble and I was certain somebody was going to end up killed - a motorist, people out walking, even people in their own homes.
“We were so certain a firework was going to come through our window we were too scared to sit in our front room.”
Another Abbeydale Road resident, a 74-year-old man afraid to be identified, said he too feared lives would be lost.
“It was like World War III - they were firing bangers and rockets at our doors and windows. It went on until midnight. They were targeting cars, it was chaos,” he said.
“At one point they got a car tyre and filled it with diesel and tried to set it on fire before rolling it into the road.
“We called the police and there were half a dozen cars and riot vans up here, but even they had fireworks thrown at them too.
“They were placing fireworks under the cars and vans and setting them off. It was total mayhem.”
South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Steve Makepeace, said: “It is absolutely disgraceful that our crews were attacked as they responded to 999 calls.
“Ensuring the safety of our fire crews is paramount, and we have CCTV cameras fitted on all our appliances. We are now examining the footage with the aim of identifying those responsible.”
There were 134 reports of anti-social or nuisance behaviour reported in South Yorkshire on Monday compared to a daily average of 129. Firefighters responded to 41 arson attacks, up on last year’s 17.