Islington safety fears at plan to axe fire engine

Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn joined Holloway firefighters on the picket line during a national f

Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn joined Holloway firefighters on the picket line during a national fire strike on New Year's Eve - Credit: Paul Wood, fees payable

Firefighters have condemned planned budget cuts that could leave Islington with just two fire engines.

The Gazette can reveal that London Fire Brigade plans to save £11m by removing 13 of the capital’s engines – including one from Holloway.

It would leave just one machine at Holloway’s Hornsey Road base. Islington Fire Station, in Upper Street, also only has one fire engine, alongside its rescue unit.

A Holloway crew member said: “It’s disgusting. We are very angry.

“The impact on Holloway – and Islington – is going to be massive. If you think that Islington is the most densely populated borough in the UK, with some of the most highly deprived wards, it is huge.

“We have coped for the last two years but if you look at the stats, response times have gone up.

“We are meant to be one of the best fire services in the world, never mind the country. Enough is enough.”

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The fire engines were taken out of service in August 2013, so they could be used in the event of strike action.

In June this year, when they were due to be returned, Mayor of London Boris Johnson ordered them to be left alone while the brigade considered its 2016/17 budget.

Fire brigade figures show Islington would be among the worst hit for response times if the Holloway engine was scrapped.

The time it takes for a first fire engine to reach a blaze in the borough will increase by 10 seconds on average.

For more serious fires, the increase in time for a second engine to arrive will be 52 seconds on average, the third highest rise in the capital.

The brigade says “targets can continue to be comfortably met at a London level” without the 13 engines.

But Paul Embery, London Fire Brigade Union regional secretary, said: “When you’re trapped in a fire, seconds count.

And if you have to wait for a fire engine to arrive from further afield because your local engine has been taken out of service, that extra wait could be the difference between life and death.”

Two proposals are on the table. One would see the 13 fire engines currently out of use permanently decommissioned.

A second option is to pick 13 alternative engines from across London fire stations that have two or more.

The second option would see Holloway’s engine returned to use.

A final decision is unlikely to be made until after the London mayoral elections in May.