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Fire engine removed from West Hampstead station ahead of possible strike

PUBLISHED: 15:22 13 October 2010 | UPDATED: 10:42 14 October 2010

Fire engines

Fire engines

Polly Hancock

FIREFIGHTERS in Camden have slammed their bosses for removing fire engines from service ahead of possible strike action next week.

A total of 27 fire engines were removed from stations across the capital today, including one from West Hampstead, leaving fewer available to respond to emergencies.

The news comes the same day that a union representative revealed there have been many hours at Camden fire stations over the past week when there have not been enough of the right crew members to send out engines.

Firefighters are working to rule at the moment in protest at changes to shift patterns being introduced by brigade bosses and the LFEPA (London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority), chaired by Brian Coleman.

Ben Sprung, Camden spokesman for the Fire Brigade Union, said: “There is industrial action going on at the moment because of the changes to shift patterns which are no good for us or the public and the fact they are trying to sack us.

“So there are a lot of stations which are not able to send out engines because they do not have the right teams of people.

“Sometimes there are lots of firefighters but no officers or drivers so engines cannot go out. So even if Camden is covered the engine might have to come from further away.

“And the difference between a fire that destroys a room or a house is about five minutes so coming from stations further away is putting people in danger.

“Traditionally people will help out and hang around until crews arrive but because of all the shift patterns changes and sackings they are not doing it. There could be a strike in London next week and the problem is Brian Coleman.”

The result of ballot action by firefighters is due to be announced tomorrow and the 27 engines have been taken to a secret location by bosses in case a strike is called.

Mr Sprung continued: “The fire brigade has now come to West Hampstead and taken away an engine ahead of the possible strike action so now there is only one there.

“Out of London’s 160 fire engines they have taken 27 away leaving less cover for the capital which is more dangerous. At the moment only Kentish Town is serving Camden because Euston and Belsize and West Hampstead have got no officers.”

A spokesman for the London Fire Brigade said that Belsize and Euston stations are being covered by engines from elsewhere and West Hampstead still has one engine after one was removed.

He said: “We would like to reassure Camden residents that the borough has never, at any point, been without fire cover.

“While the current work to rule action is taking place staff and vehicles are moved around to ensure cover across London’s 112 fire stations.

“Our attendance times are still excellent and cover is provided at all fire stations, including those in Camden.”

He added: “The current start and finish times have been in place since 1979 and the work we do today has changed dramatically.

“We don’t just respond to fires anymore. Firefighters train for and attend a much wider range of incidents, and work harder than ever before to prevent fires from happening in the first place. The current start and finish times also result in a change of shift during both the morning and evening rush hours when fire brigade incident demand is at its highest.”

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