Analysis of figures on fire brigade response times provided to Assembly Members has shown that response times have gone up in over 370 London wards since the Mayor forced through the closure of 10 London fire stations in January last year. Average response times for London have increased from 5:18 to 5:30 for the first fire engine response with the second response time also increasing from 6:28 to 6:51.
Initial analysis show that Londoners in 13 Enfield wards and 5 Haringey wards now have to wait more than the six minute target time before help arrives with response times increasing by up to 49 seconds in some areas.
Since the fire station closures last January which also saw 14 fire engines removed from service, a total of 37 London wards have seen first response times increase by over a minute compared with 2012/13 data. The number of areas missing the 6 minute target shows that despite assurances from the Mayor, his cuts to the fire service have increased the threat to public safety.
The figures also include areas where 13 additional fire engines have been removed in order to cover potential strikes, further degrading response times. I have called for these appliances to be returned outside of strike periods to ensure full cover across the capital.
Fires can take hold in seconds that’s why any increase in response times can be so dangerous. As a result of Boris Johnson’s decision to close ten fire stations and with the removal of a further 13 fire engines, even when they are not needed for strike cover, we have seen response times rise in over half of the capital’s wards including significant increases in Enfield and Haringey.
Londoners will be deeply concerned that since the closures it could take significantly longer for a fire engine to reach their home. These latest figures show is that in most of London’s wards it will now take longer to get to fires than it did last year, that is unacceptable.
The Mayor has an important duty to protect the public. He needs to ask himself whether closing ten fire stations and removing 27 fire engines is really the best way to achieve that. Given the jump in response times since the fire station closures, it is very fortunate that we have not seen an increase in serious incidents as a result.