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Johnson's fire cuts will cost lives, FBU warns

Firefighters were in tears as they walked out of their fire station for the last time yesterday. The Clerkenwell station, the oldest in Europe, is one of 10 being closed in London as part of a Tory cuts programme to save £45m a year. Photo-report by Peter Arkell

The closures have been forced through against the opposition of the Fire Brigades Union which accuses the Tory mayor of London Boris Johnson of risking lives and compromising the safety of Londoners. Nearly 600 frontline firefighter posts will disappear. Protests also took place at some of the other fire stations to close which include Belsize, Bow, Downham, Kingsland, Southwark and Woolwich.

Clerkenwell Fire Station closed
Paul Embury, sec of the London FBU, speaking outside the fire station, with Megan Dobney of the TUC

The FBU’s regional secretary for London, Paul Embery, said:

“Boris Johnson will have blood on his hands. It will be only a matter of time before someone dies because a fire engine did not get to them in time. You cannot close ten fire stations and slash nearly 600 firefighter jobs without compromising public safety. These stations have protected generations of Londoners, and they are as necessary now as they ever were”.

He said that it was one of the saddest days in the history of the London Fire brigade. He also accused Johnson of running a campaign of lies and disinformation about safety.

/report continues below photos

Clerkenwell Fire station closed
Distressed Clerkenwell firefighters consoling each other

Clerkenwell Fire station closed
The firefighters in tears as they walk out of the station doors for the last time
The firefighters in tears as they walk out of the station doors for the last time

Clerkenwell Fire station closed
Firefighters leaving for the last time making their way through the throng of press
and supporters outside the station

Clerkenwell defiance
One of the firefighters sticks a defiant message to the closed doors of the fire station

The union contends that during his campaign to close 10 London fire stations the mayor has claimed that fire deaths are "steadily" declining in the capital and that most Londoners can expect a fire engine to arrive within target attendance times. But London firefighters say both statements are untrue.

“Boris Johnson’s lies and disinformation have been so blatant,” says Paul Embury, “that we believe he has brought the mayor’s office into disrepute. Beneath his bluster and his jokey style he has played fast and loose with the facts all the way through the consultation on the closure of London’s fire stations. The simple truth is that fire and rescue services will get to emergencies more slowly in the future because of his cuts.”

The commissioner of the London Fire Brigade has predicted that the cuts will result in delayed response times to four million Londoners. In a recent public consultation exercise, 94% of those participating opposed the cuts.

9 January 2014

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