Warning that threatened fire station closure would almost double response times

Thursday, 16th May 2013

Camden market blaze in 2008. Station closures will lengthen response times

Published: 16 May, 2013
by TOM FOOT

EMERGENCY response times in Belsize would almost double if the area’s fire station is shut as planned, according to official figures.

The details of reaction times came a week after 71-year-old John Sands died in a house fire in Belsize Park.

They were released by the London Fire Brigade following queries made under the Freedom of Information Act.

The documents provided by the Brigade show how the closure of Belsize fire station would increase response times to every road in Camden.

In Belsize, the arrival time for a fire engine would rise from a current average of 4.37 minutes to an estimated 7.59 minutes. Vital minutes will be added to response times to Hampstead and Swiss Cottage.

In a detailed breakdown, seven out of 18 wards in Camden will not meet the Brigade’s crucial six-minute target. Currently, the target is not met in one ward – Kilburn.

The changes have been downplayed by the Fire Brigade but not by firefighters, who are preparing for a march to save Belsize fire station through Hampstead next Saturday.

Ben Sprung, Fire Brigades Union organiser, said: “The latest stats the brigade have been forced to release have exposed the truth. Attendance times in Belsize will be dangerously slow and way outside the brigade’s own target.

“We can save the station but only with the help of the community.

"We need you to attend the march and the Brigade’s public meeting the following Thursday and make your voice heard.

"It is your family that will be put at risk and your insurance premiums that will go up if we don’t halt the mayor’s plans.”

Mayor of London Boris Johnson wants to close 12 fire stations – including Clerkenwell and Belsize – and remove 18 fire engines from London.

"The Fire Brigade is consulting on changes, designed to save £45million, which they say will ensure average response times remain below six minutes across London.

Firefighters arrived at the  Belsize Park blaze last week within the six-minute target. Neighbours told the New Journal that the speedy response stopped the fire spreading to their homes.

In a breakdown of the new response times, the Fire Brigade estimates it will take an extra 100 seconds to get to an emergency in Hampstead – on average 6.46 minutes per call-out.

In Swiss Cottage, times will rise to 6.45 minutes from 5.19 while in Camden Town it will on average take 6.27 instead of 5.23 minutes.

In Holborn and Covent Garden, where there were 101 fires and 919 call-outs in 2011-2012 – the highest of all Camden wards – response times will rise from 4.41 minutes to 5.53 minutes.

The May 25 march to save Belsize fire station starts at midday in Oriel Place – at the top of Hampstead High Street – and follows a route to the station in Lancaster Grove.

Town Hall community safety chief Councillor Abdul Hai said: “The planned closure of Belsize and Clerkenwell fire stations means higher response times.

"A few seconds can make all the difference to public safety when dealing with a rapidly spreading fire.”

A Fire Brigade spokes­person said: “As is the case now, over half of all London wards would, on average, continue to get a first response within the six-minute target if the proposals are agreed.”

A consultation meeting about the proposals is being held at the London Irish Centre, in Camden Town, on May 30.

>> NEW JOURNAL LETTERS: March to stop fire station closure

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