The centre of Sunderland will lose its fire station – and Tyne and Wear will lose a total of three fire stations and an estimated 130 jobs – unless the fire authority can be made to react to overwhelming public opinion and reverse decisions that will put the public and firefighters at risk.
Protestors will take to the city streets on Saturday 7 February to challenge these “irresponsible and dangerous” steps. After a rally beginning at 11:00 at the Sunderland Central fire station (SR1 3QP), demonstrators will march to Market Square (SR1 3LH) to draw attention to the fire authority’s callous decisions – and to seek public support to oppose them.
Over the autumn, campaigners have gathered tens of thousands of signatures on a petition to save the services, including over 7000 collected by local pensioner George Smith. Their efforts are fully supported by MP Julie Elliot.
Under threat are the local fire stations at Sunderland Central, Gosforth and Wallsend.
Russ King, the FBU secretary for the Tyne and Wear brigade says the “drastic and unprecedented” proposals are a “genuine threat to public safety”.
“All these stations are in densely populated urban areas and they are vital assets to the communities they serve. If the Sunderland Central station is closed, there is no doubt that emergency response times will increase. Lives will be put at risk.”
Russ said how grateful he is for the support from the Northern TUC and Sunderland Trades Council who have co-organised the demonstration. “It is great to have Julie Elliot MP behind us as well. We know the public support us because of the numbers who have signed the petition. If the fire authority votes for these changes, they are flying in the face of local democracy.
“Local people understand how dangerous these cuts would be. We hope that Saturday’s event will convince the fire authority to represent their wishes and help us to maintain safe levels of fire cover in Tyne and Wear.”
Russ urged the public to get behind the campaign and come to the Sunderland Central fire station at 11:00 on Saturday.