Tory councillor hits out at party colleague Boris Johnson over Belsize fire station closure

Firefighters tackle the blaze in Wedderburn Road, Hampstead

Firefighters tackle the blaze in Wedderburn Road, Hampstead - Credit: Archant

A Conservative councillor has hit out at fellow Tory Mayor Boris Johnson over fire service cuts – after an elderly man was rescued from a blaze that tore through a Belsize Park flat.

Firefighters tackle the blaze in Wedderburn Road, Hampstead

Firefighters tackle the blaze in Wedderburn Road, Hampstead - Credit: Archant

Firefighters led the man to safety and paramedics treated him for smoke inhalation after flames engulfed the third floor apartment in Wedderburn Road last Thursday.

The incident has stoked renewed concern over the Mayor of London’s determination to shut Belsize fire station in nearby Lancaster Grove.

Cllr Chris Knight (Conservative, Hampstead), who saw the fire brigade operation, wasted no time hitting out at Mr Johnson’s controversial plans.

Speaking from the scene as smoke billowed from the building’s roof, he said: “Frankly, I don’t care what the mayor says – we want to keep our local fire stations open. It’s exactly incidents like this that make a difference – all those minutes count.

“I understand cuts have to happen, but they are not acceptable when we are talking about people’s lives.

“This is a frontline service that really needs to be maintained.

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“I’m quite sure there’s something else they could cut instead.”

His comments came as Camden Council’s Labour leaders consider calling for a judicial review of the mayor’s decision to axe Belsize fire station and nine others across the capital, along with 14 engines and 552 jobs.

A spokesman for the London Fire Brigade (LFB) said the blaze probably started when builders working on the roof used a blowtorch to burn away excess paint.

The flat’s residents are understood to be staying in a nearby hotel after much of the property was wrecked in the blaze.

There was a significant fire brigade presence in Wedderburn Road, with six fire engines and 35 firefighters attending from five stations, including West Hampstead, Belsize and Kentish Town.

The brigade was called at 2pm and it took the crews two hours to bring the fire under control.

Station manager John Lalor said access to the fire had been difficult, with crews working “in arduous and hot conditions”.

An LFB spokesman said: “The cause was accidental.

“It looks like some work was being done on the roof.

“We believe it might have been ‘hot works’, when builders use blowtorches to burn off excess paint.

“It looks like it was caused by that.”

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