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Furious fire chiefs to charge for rescuing people stuck in lifts

PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 October 2009 | UPDATED: 15:09 05 October 2010

THE emergency fire service is to start charging property owners and managers where they are persistently called out to free people trapped in faulty lifts. One-in-every-10 calls is to a lift, which is costing an estimated £4m a year

By Mike Brooke

THE emergency fire service is to start charging property owners and managers where they are persistently called out to free people trapped in faulty lifts.

One-in-every-10 calls the London Fire Brigade gets is to release someone stuck in a lift, which is costing an estimated £4 million a year.

Calls to lifts reached 14,000 in the last 12 months, each taking up time a fire crew could be on standby for real emergencies, the brigade points out.

The worst area is London's East End, with 1,688 calls to people stranded in lifts from the six fire-stations in Tower Hamlets, an area with more high-rise blocks of flats than any other part of the capital.

Only Southwark came anywhere near, with 1,543 calls. Westminster had 1,355 calls, Camden 1,310 and Hackney 959. Other East London boroughs had far fewer calls, 321 in Newham and 115 in Waltham Forest.

London Fire Authority Chairman Brian Coleman said: "It doesn't make sense to waste firefighters' time and public resources releasing people where there has not been an emergency.

"Firefighters will always attend genuine emergencies where people are shut in lifts when other means of rescue are not available.

"But sometimes crews are called repeatedly to release people from the same buildings and that is not acceptable."

Responsibility for releasing people rests legally with building owners or managers. So the brigade is using its powers from Sunday to reduce the number of calls to lifts it attends, charging £260 on the 10th release at the same building within 12 months and for all subsequent non-emergency releases.

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