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THE closure of fire stations in 2014 has led to more deaths than was previously admitted by London Fire Brigade (LFB), according to a report published yesterday.
Then-mayor Boris Johnson shut down 10 stations: Belsize, Bow, Clerkenwell, Downham, Kingsland, Knightbridge, Silvertown, Southwark, Westminster and Woolwich.
Now firefighters are failing to respond within their six-minute target time to more than half of the fires in those areas, the London’s Burning report by Lancaster University shows.
More than 552 firefighters were made redundant two years ago and 14 engines put out of use because of £29 million government cutbacks.
Eight people have died in blazes since the swathe of shutdowns. Earlier this month a 30-year-old man in Hackney died after two fire engines took more than 10 minutes to respond.
Former postman Arthur Edwards, 51, died in Roehampton last month after it took seven minutes for the first engine based at Wandsworth fire station to arrive and more than eight minutes for the second.
Wandsworth is one of the stations that now has fewer tenders as a result of cuts.
Another 13 fire engines will be lost under a plan to cut £11.5 million from the brigade’s budget for 2016-17 already approved by the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority.
The Fire Brigades Union said Labour mayor Sadiq Khan and LFB need to take “urgent action” to prevent more deaths.
The union’s London regional secretary Paul Embery said: “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 had warned that the decision to close the 10 fire stations would result in deaths. Sadly, those warnings were dismissed and, as a result, lives have been lost.”
Lancaster University statistician Dr Benjamin Taylor analysed response-time data of callouts to 24,000 fires in houses and flats in 2012-15.
He said that the average response time in some areas before the fire stations were closed was “well under five minutes” whereas some shouts now take up to 10 minutes to get to.
“Following the closures, LFB has only been able to respond to around 50 per cent of calls in these areas within its six-minute target,” Dr Taylor added.
“A few minutes extra could make all the difference.”
LONDONERS WHO PAID WITH THEIR LIVES
- MAY 2016 — Unnamed man, 30, Hackney. Two fire engines took between 10-12 minutes each to arrive.
- APRIL — Arthur Edwards, 51, Wandsworth. Two fire engines took at least seven minutes each to arrive.
- MARCH — Unnamed man, Lewisham. Downham station had been shut. Crews sent from Bromley, Eltham and Sidcup.
- MARCH — Dr Claire Sheppey, 47, Islington. Kingsland had been shut. Islington borough lost three of five engines.
- MARCH — Unnamed man, Romford. LFB missed six-minute target for two fire engines.
- FEB — Raymond Lister, 86, Islington. Kingsland had been shut. Up to 11 minutes for other stations to send engines.
- OCTOBER ’15 — Choi Yip, 85, Camden. Belsize had been shut. Soho and Shoreditch crews took more than 13 minutes. By then he had jumped to his death from the third floor.
- FEBRUARY ’14 — Maurice Cunliffe, 83, Greenwich. Woolwich had been shut weeks earlier. First engine took eight minutes.
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