Dismore’s new revelations challenge Mayor about overstretched Fire Brigade’s response times to fatal fire in Camden


At Mayor’s Question Time today, Andrew Dismore AM, Labour London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden and member of the London Fire Authority, challenged London Mayor Boris Johnson over the impact of his fire cuts, both implemented and planned, on fire brigade attendance times in Camden, in light of the recent fatal fire in Camden Road.

Dismore Challenges Boris on cuts to fire services after fatal fire in Camden from Andrew Dismore on Vimeo.

Mr Dismore revealed that on the day of the fire, no fewer than 11 fire stations in London were not operational due to staff shortages; that there was no ‘stand by’ cover at Kentish Town; and that the optimum list for the next round of Mayor’s cuts also puts a West Hampstead fire engine at risk.

Mr Dismore asked the Mayor:

‘How long did it take for the first pump attendance to turn out to the fatal fire on Monday 26th October at a property in Camden Road?’

In response, and despite having had notice of the question, the Mayor would not answer the question directly, but said the problem was down to the large fire in Finchley Road and not to his decision to close Belsize fire station two years before.

After Question Time, Mr Dismore said:

‘Whilst it is right that we will need to wait for the inquest for the full details of Mr Yip’s tragic death, the facts relating to the Fire Brigade’s attendance and capacity are a matter of record. It is a pity the Mayor would not answer a direct question with a direct answer, when the figures are known.

‘Apart from the demands of the large fire in Finchley Road, on the day of this this incident there were 11 stations ‘off the run’ (that is not operational) – more than 10% of the Brigade’s 102 stations- due to staff shortages, with nine affected for the entire shift, including Mill Hill and Edmonton not that far away.

‘The facts are that the first crew arrived 13 minutes and 21 seconds after the call, taking double the expected first response time of 6 minutes. The second crew took 15 minutes and 6 seconds. By the time they got to this sheltered housing complex, elderly resident Mr Yip had jumped from the 3rd floor window. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

‘The two crews who did attend were from Stanmore and Lambeth, and had been ‘standing by’ to provide cover at West Hampstead and Euston, when those stations’ own crews were at Finchley Road. But there was no stand by at Kentish Town which is closer- that ‘stand by’ crew (from Soho) had already been sent on to the Finchley Road fire, and had not been replaced. If it had been replaced, or if the Mayor had not closed Belsize (where there should also have been a stand by crew if Belsize had gone to the Finchley Road fire) , the first fire engine would almost certainly have got there a lot quicker, within the 6 minute response time.

‘And this isn’t   the first time there have been delays in this area. On Saturday 4th July, there was a ‘person reported’ fire in Belmont Street, in the now closed Belsize Fire Station’s ground.  Thankfully, there was no loss of life, but it took 15 minutes for the first appliance to arrive from as far away as Dowgate.

‘14 Camden wards have already seen increases in attendance times , with 5 of these seeing average increases of nearly half a minute or more. Belsize ward has seen an increase of 2 minutes 09 seconds since the closure of the station.

‘The clear conclusion from 26th October, is that the Fire Brigade in Camden was overstretched by the two fires and the staff shortages, as well as the Mayor’s two station closures in the Borough.

‘‘Yet despite these pressures, the Mayor wants to cut another 13 fire engines on top of the 10 London fire stations and 14 fire engines he cut 2 years ago including Belsize and Clerkenwell  Fire Stations in Camden; and from the list of optimum stations the Commissioner has created to identify from where to axe these extra 13 engines, one of those at risk is West Hampstead.

The Mayor broke his election promise not to cut the fire brigade; he is now set to break his repeated promise after his last batch of cuts, that there would be no more front line fire service cuts. So despite his protestations, how can anyone believe   the Mayor makes the safety of Londoners paramount?’