Shoreditch fire station forced to closed for a night due to staff shortages

Firefighters protesting before Kingsland Road fire station was axed

Firefighters protesting before Kingsland Road fire station was axed - Credit: Archant

Staff shortages meant Shoreditch fire station was forced to close on one of its busiest nights of the week, brigade bosses have admitted.

The Old Street station was one of nine across the capital that had to shut altogether or rely on emergency cover on February 6, the Fire Brigades Union has claimed.

The union’s executive member Ian Leahair slated the closure as “totally unacceptable”.

“It raises the question of how significantly lower the cover was for Hackney and Tower Hamlets, especially in the wake of the cuts last year and Kingsland Road station being shut,” he told the Gazette.

Paul Embery, the union’s secretary echoed Mr Leahair’s sentiments.

“It’s really worrying and pretty disturbing that nine stations had to close and it’s unfortuantely something that tends to be happening more and more,” he said.

“This is what happens when you are down to the bare bones in staffing levels and there is a continued desire to cut the number of firefighters.”

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It comes on the eve of a decision on whether 13 fire engines – including one in Shoreditch – will be permantly axed to save money.

They have been out of service since August 2013 as part of the brigade’s strike contingency plans. The decision would leave Shoreditch with a single engine.

According to a report that was due to be considered by the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority as the Gazette went to press, 70 per cent of people who responded to a consultation backed the retention of the engines.

Despite the conclusive response, fire commissioner Ron Dobson was set to recommend the permanent removal of the appliances.

“The consultation process is extremely important and I thank everyone who took part,” Mr Dobson said.

“I have been involved in every public meeting and have listened carefully to the views of everyone that has contributed.

“I appreciate that the removal of fire engines is not popular and but I maintain that in my professional opinion this is the correct way to balance our budget.

“Fire engines do not stop fires happening – proactive prevention work does. Under my proposals we will be able to provide better levels of protection to those most vulnerable members of our society who are disproportionally dying in avoidable fires.”

But Mr Leahair remained adamant removing engines would put lives at risk.

“It would be completely reckless to go through with the proposal to remove of 13 appliances when it is clear how many people are against it,” he said.

“I don’t know what way it is going to go, but if they choose to remove the engines then you have to wonder what the point is of the consultation.

“It will put lives at risk.”

London Fire Brigade’s director of operations Dave Brown confirmed Shoreditch had shut for the night shift on February 6 because not enough firefighters were available to staff it.

“This is an extremely rare occurrence,” he said, “and this was due to a combination of factors including, leave, sickness and training.

“We plan our fire cover on a strategic London-wide basis. When a fire engine is unavailable because they are at an incident, carrying out community safety work or off-station training fire cover is provided by neighbouring fire stations.”