Assaults at fire alleged

Police say alcohol may have been a factor in an otherwise inexplicable assault on three firefighters in Kaitangata on Tuesday night.

A man appeared in court yesterday charged with assaulting crew members who were attending an incident at the time.

The Kaitangata Volunteer Fire Brigade was called out about 9.30pm, responding to reports of a ''smoke-filled house'' in the town.

Chief Fire Officer Kevin Sutton was present, and said while the crew was investigating the situation, a man and woman passing by allegedly launched the assault.

Mr Sutton would not give further details, but expressed his extreme disappointment with the situation.

''It's very disappointing that my guys as volunteers helping their community have experienced this unrelated incident and been put through unnecessary stress and trauma.''

He said the pair did not appear to have any connection to the property or the callout, which made the attack all the more puzzling.

The original callout, which was prompted by a blocked chimney, was resolved without further incident.

By that time, police from Balclutha and St John had arrived on the scene.

Suspects were taken into custody, and one man, Isaac Turetanae Roberts (37), of Ngaruawahia, Waikato, appeared in the Dunedin District Court yesterday, charged with two counts of assault and one of assault with intent to injure.

He was granted bail, and will appear before the court again next week.

Sergeant Jason Leadley, of Balclutha, described the assault as ''serious violence'', and said Roberts' female associate had also been charged by police, although she did not appear in court yesterday.

The attacks were particularly disappointing as they involved volunteer personnel performing a community service.

''Although such assaults on emergency service staff are rare, we take them seriously, and will hold the offenders responsible for their behaviour.''

A victim of the assault contacted by the Otago Daily Times at his workplace yesterday confirmed his injuries were not serious.

The man, who did not wish to be named, declined to comment on the injuries of his colleagues, but it is believed all were released after assessment at the scene by St John personnel.

richard.davison@odt.co.nz

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