Protesters marching to London Fire Authority HQ over fire-station closures
PUBLISHED: 12:09 18 July 2013 | UPDATED: 12:42 18 July 2013
Protesters are marching to the London Fire Authority’s headquarters today to protest over plans to close 10 fire-stations.
The march comes only days after 200 people had to be evacuated when an explosion shook an east London tower block—its nearest fire-station is on the list of closures.
Campaigners have been gathering at the Monument in the City for the march organised by the Fire Brigades Union which holds a rally outside the authority’s HQ in Union Street in Southwark at 1pm.
Authority members meet an hour later to thrash out Mayor Boris Johnson’s final list of closures, after having rejected the original list of 12 earlier this year.
The union fears more incidents like Sunday’s explosion at the 12-storey Dorrington Point in Bromley-by-Bow.
Emergency crews from Bow, Silvertown and Kingsland fire-stations were among the first to arrive—all three are on the list facing the axe, with reduction in emergency cover elsewhere including Whitechapel.
Two crews from Bow arrived within six minutes, while the next from Stratford turned up two minutes after.
Those extra two minutes could have cost lives if Bow fire station had already been closed, the union claims.
Three people trapped in the tower block by the blaze on the fifth and sixth floors were on survival calls to the emergency services—they were led to safety by the crews from nearby Bow fire station.
The London Assembly’s John Biggs accused Mayor Boris Johnson of putting the public at risk by reducing emergency cover to pay for a 7p-a-week council tax reduction.
“People are united against closing Bow and Silvertown,” he said. “East London has been unfairly hit to pay for the Mayor’s penny-a-day council tax cut, even though the Fire Brigade has already saved £66 million.”
Critics say the East End will be hit worst, with its many high-rise tower blocks like Dorrington Point, while Tower Hamlets has also recorded the most emergencies of any London borough.
Cllr Marc Francis said: “Sunday’s fire in Dorrington Point shows just how much risk Boris Johnson’s dangerous plans pose.
“Response times to emergencies in the area will almost double if these cuts go ahead.”
Condemnation also came from Newham’s mayor Sir Robin Wales who fears longer response times around the whole Royal Docks if Silvertown closes.
He said: “The closure is a public safety issue—any delay can cost lives.”
Sunday’s blaze at Dorrington Point resulted in 80 firefighters having to be mobilised from Bow, Silvertown, Kingsland, Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, Poplar, Millwall, Stratford, Barking and as far as Plumstead and Peckham.