Doomed Clerkenwell fire station is ninth busiest in London

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Firefighters prepare to leave outside Clerkenwell fire station. Image: Eleanor Busby
Firefighters prepare to leave outside Clerkenwell fire station. Image: Eleanor Busby
Firefighters prepare to leave Clerkenwell fire station. Image: Eleanor Busby

Condemned Clerkenwell fire station is the ninth busiest in London, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Crews were sent out 683 more times than the average London station last year – twice more every day on average – but the station faces threat from closure.

Clerkenwell firefighters were called out 1,483 times between 1 January and 14 December 2012 making it the ninth busiest of London’s 113 stations.

The number is down almost 75% from Clerkenwell’s annual average over the past five years but the latest figures do not include callouts for the last two weeks of December 2012.

Gregory Edwards, leader of the Save Clerkenwell campaign and firefighter at the station said: “We know Clerkenwell is one of the busiest fire stations so we’re concerned what will happen once the station’s workload is taken on by other fire stations, who are just as busy.

“We’re placed in the most densely populated borough in England and Wales so Clerkenwell is in a good position to respond to emergencies if and when they happen. We can’t understand why anyone would justify closing the station.”

Despite being the borough’s busiest station, 66 per cent of Clerkenwell’s callouts were false alarms, with fires only making up 10 per cent of incidents. The remaining number were special services, which includes road traffic accidents, animal rescues and lift releases.

Firefighter prepares to leave for duty. Image: Eleanor Busby
Firefighter out on a call. Image: Eleanor Busby

Mr Edwards added: “False alarms happen when an automatic fire alarm goes off, which is part of the fire service’s work. We have to respond to calls in case there is an actual fire.

“The raw statistics might show that over half of callouts are false alarms but the service does a lot more than just fight fires. We deal with people in precarious positions, chemicals, suspect packages and people under trains.”

Clerkenwell leads Holloway and Islington fire stations, which are safe from closure and had 1,164 and 859 callouts respectively last year.

The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority rejected Boris Johnson’s call for a public consultation about the closures but after he threatened legal action, the body voted to authorise the decision.

Ron Dobson, commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, said:

“Compared to ten years ago, the Brigade attends half as many fires, a third fewer house fires and almost a third fewer incidents overall. We have passed the point where we can make the necessary level of savings without any impact on our fire stations.

“I remain committed to my long term vision for London Fire Brigade to remain a world class fire and rescue service for London, Londoners and visitors. This draft plan sets out in more detail how I plan to continue to achieve that over the next three years.”

Paul Embery, regional secretary of the Fire Brigades’ Union, said: “Closing fire stations compromises public safety. When it comes to fire, seconds count. If your local station closes, and you are forced to wait for an engine from a station four or five miles away, you will inevitably be in greater danger.”

“We want a decent level of fire cover everywhere, arranged according to risk, not finances.”

The consultation on proposals to close the London fire stations will end at 5pm on Tuesday 28 May 2013. Members of the public can have their say by visiting http://www.london-fire.gov.uk/lsp5.asp, calling 0800 9888 569 or by writing to the London Fire Brigade.