Kingsland firefighters are reunited before the station closes its doors for the final time tomorrow
- Credit: Archant
Generations of firefighters stretching back to the 1960s reflected on lives saved in blazes, train disasters and terrorist attacks as they gathered to mark the closure of Kingsland fire station.
About 140 current and former Kingsland firefighters turned out to mark the end of an era at the Duke of Wellington pub in Haggerston Road, Haggerston, on Friday, before the station, which has served the community from the site for 120 years, closes for good tomorrow morning.
The fire heroes, some of whom have lost colleagues in action, have attended thousands of incidents between them – including the Moorgate Tube crash in 1975 which killed 43 people; the King’s Cross fire in 1987 which killed 31 people, and the IRA bombing of Bishopsgate in 1993 in which one person died and 44 were injured.
Last January, the station, which first opened in 1894 before being knocked down and rebuilt in 1973, was named as one of 12 to be shut by London Fire Brigade (LFB) as part of plans to save £29million.
Seven councils – including Hackney – fought the plans but lost their battle at the High Court last month.
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From today (Thursday), response times in four wards – Dalston, De Beauvoir, Queensbridge and New River – are set to increase to more than the six-minute LFB average.
Mick Gibbs, 50, who is Red Watch manager and the longest serving firefighter currently at Kingsland with 28 years under his belt, said: “I think it’s a sad day for Hackney. There’s been a fire station on that site for over 100 years. We have been doing our bit to keep the community safe and it’s a sad day it’s not going to be there anymore.
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“Many memorable incidents spring to mind but perhaps one that stands out was when a bedsit went on fire in Kingsland High Street. There were 12 people hanging from the window sills waiting to be rescued. There was frantic action from Kingsland and Stoke Newington fire station crew.”
Faisal Gill, 32, who has served at Kingsland since 2010, said: “I feel gutted because I’m going to be missing out. I love Hackney. I feel London is being cheated.”
Some of the firefighters have witnessed colleagues lose their lives in the call of duty.
Colin Wayne, 67, served for 30 years at Kingsland from 1967.
He recalled going to an incident on the Isle of Dogs where he lost seven colleagues after a fuel tanker went up in flames.
He also lost his friend and colleague Micky Lee at a fire in Goswell Road in 1980 – Mr Wayne was due to be the best man at his wedding just a few days later.
Despite the tragedies, he said he loved his time at the station and said it is a “mistake” to close it.
Others have seen huge changes at the station over the years.
Bob Flanders, 76, of Ongar, Essex, served at Kingsland from 1965 to 1986.
He said: “When I joined, the fire brigade would only take ex-servicemen. I had been in the army and had done national service between 1958 and 1961.
“The Moorgate Tube disaster was the biggest incident I attended. There must have been 50 firemen there.
“I remember the old Kingsland fire station, which was beautiful. It had a turret where firemen would look out for German war planes during the wars.
“They knocked it down around 1973 to build the current structure.”
Gary Robson, 57, of Stoke Newington, who served at Kingsland between 1985 and 2010, said: “There used to be quite a few fires in Holly Street before they knocked the towers down. Because the rag trade was going on in this area, we had quite a few fires here as well. We also attended a few of the IRA bombings in the City of London, such as the one at St Mary Axe.”
Jon Baldwin, 37, served at Kingsland between 1998 and 2008. He said: “I’m completely gutted. It’s a big piece of Hackney history going down the pan. I made some of my best friends. Many of them are here tonight.
“For most firemen, it becomes a big part of your life. We work very closely together and spend Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and birthdays together. It becomes like your second family.”
People will gather outside the station tomorrow to protest the closure and cuts to the LFB. Please join them at 9.15am if you wish to show your support.