"Nonsensical" Kingsland closure means Hackney will have a "poorer fire service"
PUBLISHED: 18:19 09 January 2014 | UPDATED: 20:29 09 January 2014
"Choked up" fire fighters left Kingsland for the last time this morning as 10 stations across the capital shut their doors for good.
Members of the public, Labour councillors, the Mayor of Hackney Jules Pipe and MP Meg Hillier joined fire fighters to mark the end of an era for the station which has been on site since Victorian times, opening in 1894 before being rebuilt in 1973.
Kingsland was named last January as one of 12 to be shut by London Fire Brigade (LFB) as part of plans to save £28.2 million, and seven councils – including Hackney – fought the plans, but lost the battle at the High Court last month.
General Secretary of the Fire Brigade’s Union, Matt Wrack, travelled from his home in Leytonstone to Kingsland this morning, where he served for 14 years until 2002.
After addressing the crowd which also included the Fire Brigades Union, Hackney Trades Union Council, Transport Salaried Staffs Association, the Socialist Workers Party, the Socialist Party, the Hackney People’s Assembly and Sustainable Hackney, Mr Wrack told the Gazette he was “absolutely gutted”.
“I’ve seen people’s lives saved from this fire station, I’ve seen people injured who’ve worked at this fire station, I’ve seen someone killed who worked at this fire station,” he said.
“It’s horrible to see a public service like this just shot in the way it has been, and thinking that the people of Hackney are now going to have a poorer fire service.
“If there’s anything else that can be done we’ll try and think about it, but at the moment it’s a defeat.”
He continued: “I would love someone to occupy it, if there were sufficient numbers that would be great, but you would have to have a mood of the people to do it.”
Green watch fire fighter Stavros Marangos said he was too choked up to talk as he emerged from the station for the last time, before starting a new post at Stanmore station this evening.
He said: “I’ll see how it goes, I’m very sad, and bitter at the way it’s been done, 10 fire stations didn’t have to close in my opinion, I don’t think I could say much more because I’m getting emotional.”
The London Fire Brigade attends half as many fires as a decade ago and claims the move will still enable them to meet response time targets of getting the first fire engine to an emergency on average across London within six minutes, and the second fire engine, if needed, within eight minutes.
But statistics show four Hackney wards - Dalston, De Beauvoir, New River and Queensbridge - will be hard hit, with response times in Dalston increasing from 5.18 to 6.59 minutes and most shocking of all in De Beauvoir from 4.24 to 7.37 minutes.
This morning Jules Pipe branded the “stark” figures “sickening” and “nonsensical” this morning.
“It’s a political choice by the Mayor of London to trade one thing against the other, and he’s chosen this,” he said.
“He chose to make it on spurious grounds that there are fewer fires but that makes no difference once a fire breaks out – if fire outbreaks got to a negligible number does that mean we would only have one fire station in London?”
He continued: “The standard response time for the fire brigade is six minutes for a reason, it’s not just some sort of guidance and it would be nice if they turned up by that time.
“Six minutes is meant to be the limit, instead it’s gone from four minutes around here to over seven and that’s just completely unacceptable for the sake of a relatively small amount of money.”
MP for Hackney South, Meg Hillier is concerned about fire engines reaching the area from Homerton during the rush hour.
“If you have a fire at 2am that’s one thing, but try coming down Homerton High Street in a hurry to get to here,” she said.
An LFB spokesman said the ward level data shows how varied response times are across the capital.
“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,” he said.
“London would continue to receive a very good service, compared to other emergency services and other parts of the country.”
Chair of the London Fire Authority James Cleverly said the proposals will enable the service to be within the six minute target across more of London’s boroughs than presently achieved.