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The battle to save Hornchurch Fire Station’s specialist fire rescue unit is set to end in failure tomorrow morning as the engine goes off duty for the last time.

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The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) estimates the engine has saved 100 lives following road crashes, floods and other hazards – but from 9.30am the borough’s nearest FRU will be the one 10 miles away at East Ham.

The decision, driven by budget cuts, is part of the Draft Fifth London Safety Plan, under which 10 stations across the capital will close.

Fire Brigades Union (FBU) man and former Hornchurch firefighter Joe MacVeigh, of Gidea Park, told the Romford Recorder the fire brigade was making “a huge mistake”.

“People will die because that machine is not there,” he said.

The LFB has hit back angrily at claims it is endangering lives. Its figures show Hornchurch’s FRU is called out less frequently than others across London, although union data suggest it carries out more rescues per 100 call-outs than the average, redressing the balance.

In addition, data obtained from the LFB and the FBU last year suggested its number of rescues per 100 call-outs was increasing – from 35 across the three years to August, to 43 in the final 16 months.

Havering is among London’s worst areas for serious and fatal road crashes. For the period 2009-12, the borough came second out of London’s 32 for the number of crash fatalities.

Havering and neighbouring Redbridge are also in the top 10 for injuries and serious injuries sustained in road crashes.

“On average, FRUs spend 4pc of their operational time at incidents,” an LFB spokesman said today. “Hornchurch is one of the four quietest FRU stations and because we plan our emergency cover on a pan-London basis other stations equipped with FRUs will still provide sufficient coverage to the area.”

He added the number of fires in London had halved in the last decade.

A judicial review mounted last year against the plan by seven London boroughs, not including Havering, was unsuccessful, as was a campaign by Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas to save the Hornchurch engine.

LFEPA chairman James Cleverly said: “If you dial 999 and need a fire engine, we still aim to have one with you within six minutes and a second, if needed, within eight.”

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