The decision by London Mayor Boris Johnson to close a fire station last year may have led to the death of an elderly man in a fire yesterday, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said.
Yesterday morning (Monday 26 October) a fire broke out at a property in Camden Road but firefighters from Kentish Town fire station, the nearest to the scene, were unavailable as they were tackling another large fire on Finchley Road. As a result London Fire Brigade were forced to mobilise fire crews from as far afield as Soho, Shoreditch, Lambeth and Stanmore resulting in a wait of 13 minutes before making it to the scene – more than double the six minute response time target. By the time the fire engines arrived from Soho, the pensioner had already either jumped or fallen from his window and had died.
The longstanding Camden based Belsize fire station, one of the 10 stations closed in the capital by Boris Johnson in 2014, may have been able to mobilise fire crews to Camden Road in time to save the man’s life, said FBU London regional secretary Paul Embery.
“Boris Johnson has got serious questions to answer after this tragedy”, he said. “Last year, he forced through massive cuts in the London Fire Brigade, and we warned him that it would lead to longer response times and jeopardise public safety. It is not nice to be proved right.
“His cuts meant that the brigade’s response to this incident was severely delayed. Closing fire stations and slashing firefighter jobs costs lives. It is scandalous that the safety of Londoners is being sacrificed because of the mayor’s fixation with cost-cutting. Last year alone 600 frontline firefighter jobs were slashed.”
London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden, Andrew Dismore, said: “Yet again we have seen how wrong it was to close Belsize fire station. This is the second time this year we have seen how stretched the fire brigade is in answering emergencies in Camden when there is more than one incident at a time.
“This brings home how important it is that the Conservative mayor and government’s demands for yet more cuts can put lives at risk. We have to make sure that in trying to achieve the difficult task of balancing the books we protect the front line and in particular enable the return of the 13 fire engines the mayor has been holding back and is refusing to put back on our fire stations.”