‘Lives at risk’ if Bow fire station closes, public meeting hears

A panel at a public meeting on the future of Bow fire station held at Queen Mary University

A panel at a public meeting on the future of Bow fire station held at Queen Mary University - Credit: Archant

Fire chiefs and politicians have been accused of putting lives at risk by backing plans to close fire stations, as response times are expected to increase by several minutes.

Furious residents, fire fighters and councillors confronted politicians and senior fire service figures during an acrimonious public meeting on the future of the station at Bow on Tuesday evening.

London Fire Brigade commissioner Ron Dobson was accused of hiding the impact of shutting Bow fire station, which is one of 12 across London shortlisted for closure.

Mr Dobson admitted he did not know by how much response times would be delayed if the station were to close, choosing instead to direct people to the figures online.

But councillors looked up the information during the meeting – and found they would increase by two to three minutes in Bow.

Angrily confronting Mr Dobson with the figures, Bow West Councillor Joshua Peck said: “This is the difference between life and death”, drawing loud applause from the audience.

The meeting was held as part of a consultation into plans to save £45million from fire budgets over the next two years. But doubts were raised over whether the listening process would protect front line services.

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“Do you think your consultation is sound when you don’t tell people what the impact of your closures will be?” asked Cllr Peck.

Bethnal Green and Bow MP Rushanara Ali joined fire fighters in condemning chiefs for not volunteering information on response times.

Ms Ali said: “There’s a real danger that this whole process of consultation will be a sham.”

Critics of the planned closure highlighted the dense population in Bow as reasons to preserve its fire station.

Bow East Councillor Marc Francis said there are at least 60 high rise tower blocks in the area covered by the station’s crew.

“You have to understand the area this fire station serves”, he said. “It’s an industrial area with lots of heavy industry around there.

“No fire engine can get there in the times you are talking about. The average response times are obviously going to go up massively if we close this station.”

But Mr Dobson pointed to a one third decrease in call-outs for the London Fire Brigade in the last 10 years, and said the number of fires in the capital is at the lowest level since 1965.

A greater emphasis on prevention methods such as sprinklers in homes will help reduce demand for fire fighters, he added.

“I do understand that in a local area people will feel it’s a big chunk to take out”, said Mr Dobson. “We believe that the number of fires is much better controlled by proactive measures.”

To have your say on the future of London’s fire stations, visit: www.london-fire.gov.uk/lsp5. The consultation ends on June 17.

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