London Fire Brigade accused of using incomplete figures to justify axing Havering’s only fire rescue unit

PUBLISHED: 08:00 01 August 2013 | UPDATED: 09:14 02 August 2013

Hornchurch's fire rescue unit is under threat

Hornchurch's fire rescue unit is under threat


London Fire Brigade is accused of using incomplete figures to justify axing Hornchurch’s specialist fire rescue unit (FRU) – a machine that has saved “hundreds of lives”.

Fire Brigade Union worker and former Hornchurch firefighter Joe Mcveigh, who was based at the North Street station for six years, said the figures released by LFB only tell half the story – because there is no breakdown of which incidents actually required action once firefighters arrived.

Data cited in the brigade’s Draft Fifth London Safety Plan show Hornchurch is not called out to as many incidents as FRUs further into London.

But figures obtained by the union from the LFB paint a different picture: Havering firefighters attended 136 road crashes in 2011/12 – more than Newham (104) or Tower Hamlets (105), which currently have three FRUs between them – Millwall, East Ham and Bethnal Green.

London Fire Brigade could not say how many of Hornchurch FRU’s 237 call outs last year required action.

Joe believes Hornchurch is required to take action more frequently than inner London FRUs that cover a smaller area – because there is less “doubling up” on call-outs.

He said three or four FRUs could attend the same incident in central London, with only one required to do anything – but all of them would be recorded as having been mobilised.

By contrast, Hornchurch is likely to be the only FRU on a job due to its remoteness.

In a letter to Romford MP Andrew Rosindell, seen by the Recorder, he said the FRU had “saved dozens if not hundreds of lives” since 2005.

In a chilling sign-off, he added: “I would ask you write to the commissioner to ask him to rescind this completely nonsensical decision as there are a number of your constituents who owe their lives to that machine.”

Last month, the London Assembly voted to condemn the brigade cuts.

But Roger Evans (Conservative), Havering’s assembly member, supported the plan.

An LFB spokesman said brigade chiefs had “listened to Londoners and looked at what savings can be made from our wider operational fleet as a whole and have examined the utilisation of our fire rescue units”.

He added: “The £6million that would be released as a result of reducing our FRU fleet from 16 to 14 would enable us to keep two fire stations open – Clapham and New Cross - and two further fire engines.

“On average FRUs spend four per cent of their operational time at incidents. 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 such as East Ham and Bethnal Green will still provide sufficient coverage to this area.”

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