Boris Johnson’s fire cuts to hit Camden hardest of any London borough

A young campaigner outside Belsize Fire Station

A young campaigner outside Belsize Fire Station - Credit: Archant

Shock new figures have revealed that fire cuts will hit Camden more severely than any other borough in the capital.

Belsize Fire station earmarked for closure

Belsize Fire station earmarked for closure - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Firefighters will take an extra minute or more to reach emergencies in six of Camden’s wards if the Mayor of London’s cost-cutting plans to shut 12 stations, including Belsize, are carried out.

No other borough will see as many large increases in average waits for a fire engine, according to estimates published by the London Fire Brigade (LFB).

The revelations have heightened fears over the impact of closing Belsize fire station in Lancaster Grove.

Six wards in Camden will also be pushed outside the six-minute response-time target set by the LFB.

Belsize ward will be nearly two minutes over the target – although the fire brigade insists it is not a ward-level target.

Residents of Belsize will see their average wait for a fire engine rise by an extra three minutes and 22 seconds – up to seven minutes, 59 seconds. Hampstead Town and Swiss Cottage also see significant increases.

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Andrew Dismore, London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden (Labour), said the statistics “blow a hole” in the case for closures.

He added: “It’s just not acceptable that these times are going up so dramatically. A fire can quadruple in intensity every two minutes. These increases are truly scandalous.”

Belsize councillor Tom Simon branded the new numbers “chilling”.

He said: “These are average times and all averages have outliers. If the average goes up, the number and extent of outliers is going to increase as well. Who wants to be on the receiving end when Kentish Town and West Hampstead are busy? That’s what’s really worrying.”

A march to oppose the closure of Belsize fire station is expected to attract 500 people next Saturday, May 25. They will walk from Oriel Place, Hampstead, to Belsize Park, starting at noon.

Organiser Ben Sprung, the Fire Brigades Union representative for Camden, accused fire chiefs of misleading the public by only releasing the ward breakdown figures now.

“The publication of these figures is a game-changer and it’s outrageous that they have only just been released,” he said.

Residents of the Chalcots estate in Adelaide Road, Swiss Cottage – where hundreds were evacuated from Taplow tower block last year after a fire on the 17th floor – were shocked by the new figures.

Angie Duncan, 72, who lives on the 25th floor, said: “They need to be opening fire stations, not closing them down.”

Christopher Kelly, 66, on the 21st floor, said: “We would probably all be dead if the trucks had got here any later.”

The fire brigade is consulting on plans to axe 12 stations and will hold a public meeting at the London Irish Centre, Camden Square, Camden Town, on May 30. It is trying to save £45million over two years.

A 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 if the proposals are agreed.

“London would continue to receive a very good service, compared to other emergency services and other parts of the country.”