Westminster residents at risk as fire brigade response times go up by more than a minute

According to the ‘West End Extra’:

westminsterfirestation

“FIRE brigade response times have gone up by more than a minute in parts of Westminster just months after £28million cuts were made to the service, according to figures released this week.

It comes in a week that saw firefighters called to tackle a number of blazes across the borough and reveals that some streets in the south of Westminster are now outside the London Fire Brigade’s (LFB) own six-minute target.

It follows the controversial closure of the 107-year-old Westminster Fire Station in Greycoat Place at the beginning of this year, which was axed along with nine other stations and the loss of 552 firefighters and 14 engines. The Fire Brigades Union said the increase of a minute was “massive” and would “put lives at risk”.

The ward-by-ward figures show that, on average, fire engines will now take more than six minutes to reach a blaze in Bryanston Square, Knightsbridge and Belgravia, and Marylebone High Street.

Firefighters say that the time taken for a second engine to reach the scene is key, with fires in housing blocks requiring at least two teams to tackle.

In Churchill, Maida Vale and Knightsbridge and Belgravia the time taken for the second engine to arrive on the scene has increased, on average, by more than a minute since the end of 2013.

Maida Vale councillor Thomas Crockett said: “Initially, the increase of 1 minute 13 seconds seems alarming, but I remind myself that Maida Vale had one of the swifter response times to start off with. The current response time is still very comfortably within the 8-minute target benchmark, which causally I understand to be very much the most important thing. That said, it must be the case that the quicker the better and I would revert to feeling unsettled should the response time continue to grow.”

London FBU representative Neil Walker said the increase of even a minute was “massive”.

“You can see clips on YouTube of fires that go from nothing to taking hold in a minute,” he added.

“The cuts have put lives at risk, and people will have died because of these response times. It’s all very well for London Fire Brigade to say they are within the targets, but they change the targets to suit themselves. If we go to a high-rise there are so many protocols we have to go through that we can’t go in until the second engine arrives. It’s about firefighters’ safety as well as the public’s. Without a doubt an increase of a minute has put lives at risk.”

On Tuesday two men were taken to hospital with injuries and around 40 people were evacuated from a building site in Saint James’s Street after an explosion and fire.

On Sunday 20 firefighters from Lambeth and Soho were called to tackle a blaze in a Pimlico flat caused by a stray firework.

A LFB spokesman said: “Between January and August, London-wide attendance times are on target and London Fire Brigade continues to provide the fastest emergency service response in the capital.

“The brigade are still within our London-wide targets to get a first fire engine to an incident in 6 minutes and a second in 8 minutes on average. This is despite 13 engines being removed as part of the contingency service and nine stations being rebuilt.

“The figures are very close to what we predicted in the fifth London safety plan. In many wards where response have increased, they have done so by less than 15 seconds.”

First fire engine on scene (average mins)
2012/13 Jan-Aug 2014

Warwick 4.15 5.47
Knightsbridge and Belgravia 4.47 6.18
Tachbrook 3.56 5.00
Churchill 4.48 5.34
M’bone High Street 5.55 6.04

Second fire engine on scene (average mins)

2012/13 Jan-Aug 2014

Churchill 5.34 7.02
Knightsbridge and Belgravia 6.25 7.47
Maida Vale 5.12 6.25
West End 6.14 6.41
Little Venice 5.37 5.46

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