London firefighters

Two more fatal fires linked to response time chaos as new report savages London station closures

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) is failing to meet response time targets to more than half of all emergencies in the areas where ten fire stations were closed in 2014, new research shows.

The news comes as it was revealed there have been two more fatal fires at incidents in the capital where fires crews missed their target attendance time making a total of eight deaths since the fire stations closed.

An analysis published by Lancaster University found around 50% of all call outs in the areas where the stations closed did not meet the six minute response time target for the first fire engine to arrive.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) have branded the findings outrageous but foreseeable, and they warned the former Mayor of London Boris Johnson about the risks of closing the stations at the time.

Paul Embery, regional secretary of the FBU in London, said: “These stats support what our firefighters are experiencing on the frontline. Firefighters are attending fatal emergencies knowing that if they could have got there in the time target, they may have been able to save lives. We warned at the time that the decision to close the ten fire stations would result in deaths. Sadly, those warnings were dismissed and as a result lives have been lost. These damning statistics show the need for urgent action by the new mayor Sadiq Khan and the LFB.”

Response times recently breached in Hackney and Wandsworth have resulted in two more fatalities. In Hackney, a 30 year old man died after it took crews more than 10 minutes to reach the scene. In a separate incident, firefighters responding from Wandsworth fire station, who recently had one of their engines cut as part of the latest round of cuts which saw 13 vehicles removed, retired Arthur Edwards died in a blaze at his home after it took more than seven minutes for crews to arrive. 

Elsewhere, there have been a string of high profile fire deaths over the past year including 85 year old Choi Yip who, having waited for more than 13 minutes for firefighters to arrive, jumped to his death from the third floor of his Camden home. This was followed by the deaths of Raymond Lister, 86 and 7/7 hero Dr. Claire Sheppey, 47 at separate incidents in Islington. The tragedies occurred just a month apart from each other, and in both cases fire crews failed to meet their target attendance time.

Statistician Dr Benjamin Taylor analysed data from call outs to over 24,000 fires in the capitals. He said: “Two years on, my analysis would suggest that the impact of the closures may be more substantial than the London Fire Brigade anticipated. In some areas before the closures, the average response time for the first fire engine was well under five minutes. Following the closures, the London Fire Brigade is only able to respond to around 50% of calls in these areas within its six minute target. Some calls take up to 10 minutes to respond to. Even one minute extra can make all the difference to a fire victim’s chances of survival.”

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