21 Nov 2014

Islington response times soar after fire station closures

Since the closure of 10 London fire stations at the start of 2014, fire response times have been on the rise.

The map below shows us how the closures have affected the people of Islington, reflecting the increase in time it takes for the first and second fire engines to arrive on the scene. Fire brigade response times have increased in almost every Islington ward since Clerkenwell Fire Station closed.

Boris Johnson ordered the closure of 10 London stations in January, including Kingsland Station and Clerkenwell Station, Europe’s oldest fire station.

Over the 8 months since then, the average increase of Islington response times is 35 seconds, prompting concerns over public safety.

Response times are still within the London Fire Brigade’s target times – which stand at 6 minutes for the arrival of the first engine and 8 minutes for the second, needed for high rise fires and larger incidents.

However, fire and safety officials have warned that the increases have "put lives at risk".

In Clerkenwell, home to a number of tower blocks, response times for the first fire engine soared by 1.27 minutes. The response time for the second engine also increased by 53 seconds.

In Bunhill, also near the closed fire station, the first fire engine took an extra 30 seconds to get there, and the second took a further 1.4 minutes.

Whilst Clerkenwell was hit hardest for the arrival of the first engine, Canonbury saw the highest increase for the second engine. These took an extra 2.07 minutes to arrive at the scene.

Gregory Edwards, a Fire Brigades Union Official, said that the statistics “show the impact of cuts to the service.

“In any emergency time is vital – whether it is the speed of a spreading fire, the need for oxygen, or the need to rescue.

“It now takes longer for firefighters to get to you in an emergency and regardless of 'meeting targets' this, at some time, will have an impact. And for what? The cuts weren't made for operational reasons but because the Mayor forced through his budget cuts in addition to the cuts from central government.”

Neil Walker, the former London FBU branch secretary at Clerkenwell, said: “the cuts have put lives at risk, and people will have died because of these response times.

“It’s all very well for London Fire Brigade to say they are within the targets, but they change the targets to suit themselves.”

A spokeswoman for the London Fire Brigade said: “Between January and August, London-wide attendance times are on target and London Fire Brigade continues to provide the fastest emergency service response in the capital. The figures are very close to what we predicted in the fifth London safety plan.”

However, Islington’s Safety Chief, Councillor Paul Convery, said that the increases could be the difference between life and death.

He said: “These new response times are within the predicted model laid out by London Fire Brigade before the cuts, but we have always said they put people at risk.

“Fortunately nobody has died in a fire since the cuts. Let’s hope it stays that way.”


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