‘Serious questions’ after fire crews took more than 13 minutes to respond to fatal Camden fire
- Credit: Archant
The Mayor of London has “serious questions to answer” after a man apparently leapt to his death to escape a fire in Camden Town yesterday, a union chief has said.
An man in his 80s died after plunging from the third floor of a sheltered housing block in Camden Road whist the most local fire crews were battling a major blaze in Finchley Road.
The fire brigade had to mobilise crews from as far afield as Lambeth, Stanmore, Shoreditch and Soho to the Camden Road fire - with the first crew arriving from Soho 13 minutes and 20 seconds after being called.
The target response time is six minutes.
By the time the Soho crew arrived at Ashton Court, the elderly man had either fallen or jumped, and was pronounced dead at the scene by doctors from London Air Ambulance.
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Paul Embery, regional Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said today: “Boris Johnson has got serious questions to answer after this tragedy.
“Last year, he forced through massive cuts in the London Fire Brigade, and we warned him that it would lead to longer response times and jeopardise public safety.
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“It is not nice to be proved right. His cuts meant that the brigade’s response to this incident was severely delayed. Closing fire stations and slashing firefighter jobs costs lives. It is scandalous that the safety of Londoners is being sacrificed because of the mayor’s fixation with cost-cutting.”
Mr Embery’s criticism was echoed by Andrew Dismore, London Assembly Member for Camden and Barnet, who said: “Yet again, we have seen how wrong it was to close Belsize fire station. This is the second time this year we have seen how stretched the fire brigade is in answering emergencies in Camden when there is more than one incident at a time.
“This brings home how important it is that the mayor and government’s demands for yet more cuts can put lives at risk. We have to make sure that in trying to achieve the difficult task of balancing the books we protect the front line, and in particular, enable the return of the 13 fire engines the mayor has been holding back and is refusing to put back on our fire stations.”
A spokesperson for London Fire Brigade said: “The Brigade was called at 1042 and the fire was under control by 1212. Crews from Soho, Shoreditch, Lambeth and Stanmore fire stations were at the scene.
“Fire engines from the closest fire stations were already in attendance at the large fire on Finchley Road when the fire on Ashton Court broke out. Due to the Finchley Road fire, fire engines from other stations were covering West Hampstead and Euston fire stations.
“A further two fire engines were mobilised from Soho and Shoreditch Fire Stations. The first fire engine arrived at Ashton Court after 13 minutes and 21 seconds and the second after 15 minutes and 6 seconds; all four fire engines were on scene in 20 minutes.
“We plan fire cover on a London wide basis, so if fire engines are unavailable because they are already attending another incident or their crews are training, we still have enough resources in place across the capital to deal with whatever we are called to.
“It would be inappropriate to comment further until a coroner’s verdict is reached.”
In total, around 20 firefighters attended the fatal fire in Camden Road, containing it to the flat where it started.
Fire crew wearing breathing apparatus led a second man to safety from a neighbouring flat on the third floor.
He was treated for smoke inhalation at the scene, whilst a third man left the block of flats before firefighters arrived and was uninjured.
Police say they believe they know the identity of the man who died, but have not yet released his name.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, but is not being treated as suspicious at this stage.
Tulip Siddiq, Labour MP for Kilburn and Hampstead, said: “For the last two days I have witnessed on my doorstep the brave work of 70 firefighters tackling the blaze on Finchley Road. Those on the scene have been a credit to the emergency services and we owe them a debt of gratitude for their tireless efforts to avert further tragedy.
“We have to make sure that we as politicians provide the emergency services with the funding and resources they need to do their jobs.”