March 8 2014 Latest news:
by Tom Payne and Tim Lamden
Thursday, January 9, 2014
It opened in 1915, survived the Luftwaffe’s bombs during the Second World War and went on to save thousands of lives in the ensuing decades.
But today Belsize Fire Station will shut forever, bringing down the curtain on almost 100 years of service.
The station, in Lancaster Grove, is one of 10 London fire stations closing as part of Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s bid to make £29m savings.
It is believed average response times for fire engines will soar following the closures, with residents in six Camden wards having to wait an extra minute or more for an engine.
Belsize ward will be the hardest hit, with the average waiting time nearly doubling from four minutes 37 seconds to seven minutes 59 seconds.
Firefighter Kieron Cashin, 39, who has worked at the station since 2004, described the closure as an “absolute disgrace” that would risk lives.
He said: “The closure of the station is going to extend the amount of time you wait for firefighters. It also means that the other stations are going to suffer because we’re overstretched. Attendance times are going to go up more and more.
“It’s taking a big risk closing this place. It’s a real loss to the community and it’s not just the fact that we go out and fight fires, we have a lot of the schools come round here and do visits.
“We go around and install smoke alarms for people at risk. We’re part of the community.”
The Ham&High understands that the 28 firefighters at Belsize will be dispersed across London, while the station’s engine is destined for Hendon.
The future of the Grade II listed building is uncertain. Mr Cashin said: “I get a funny feeling it’s just going to end up standing here empty.”
Last month, Camden Council made a last attempt to save Belsize and Clerkenwell stations by joining six other London boroughs in an unsuccessful High Court bid.
It followed a protest march in May by hundreds of campaigners, including Hampstead MP Glenda Jackson, who walked from Hampstead High Street to Belsize Fire Station.
Cllr Abdul Hai, Camden Council’s cabinet member for community safety, said that Camden would feel the “full force” of the closures.
He added: “A few seconds can make the difference between life and death, when dealing with a rapidly spreading fire. Camden is densely populated and can suffer from extremely congested roads. These cuts will lead to longer response times from the fire brigade and more importantly jeopardise the safety of Camden residents.”
James Cleverly, chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA), said: “Londoners will continue to receive one of the fastest emergency response times in the world from the London Fire Brigade.
“The brigade is faced with significant budget cuts which mean that changes to the service are inevitable and we are able to make those changes without compulsory redundancies.”
A demonstration against the closure is due to take place outside the station today at 8.30am.