Police are investigating an "unprovoked verbal assault" on a firefighter which held him up on his way to a callout.

The volunteer firefighter was accosted on January 11 while responding to a callout in Russell.

A police spokeswoman said the firefighter was on foot in Matauwhi Rd when he was approached by a man "behaving oddly".

"The male abused the firefighter in an unprovoked verbal assault, and refused to let him pass," she said.

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"It was only when the firefighter explained he was responding to a fire call that he was allowed to continue, but the male then followed him to the Russell Fire Station, where fellow officers intervened."

Police say the man left the area a short time later, having threatened that he would return with a friend.

"Witnesses have been spoken to and positive enquiries are continuing to locate the male involved," the police spokeswoman said.

"Police are confident of a swift and successful resolution to this matter."

It is not the only recent incident in which a firefighter has copped abuse on the job.

At the start of December last year, two firefighters suffered bloody noses while trying to break up a brawl at a crash at Waihi Beach. A 17-year-old was arrested over the matter.

Last year more than 2300 abusive altercations, including assault, were reported by ambulance officers by mid-December.

Meanwhile, police officers reported 346 assaults in 2017 and reported more than 200 assaults by September last year.