The Independent London Newspaper
18th December 2017

One last look around Belsize Fire Station as 100-year-old base falls to City Hall cuts

    Belsize Fire Station

    Above: Belsize Fire Station in Lancaster Grove. Below: inside the 100-year-old building

    Belsize Fire Station
    Belsize Fire Station

    Published: 8 January, 2014
    by TOM FOOT

    A 100-year history of crucial public service comes to an end tomorrow (Thursday) when Belsize fire station closes for good.

    The decision to shut and sell the Grade II-listed building follows a London Fire Brigade consultation that has been branded a “sham” by councillors.

    It was triggered by a £28million annual cut to the budget by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson. It has led to the closure today of 10 fire stations across London and the axing of more than 500 posts.

    Belsize firefighter Kieran Cashin said: “I feel like I have had my family taken away. I’ve seen guys who thought they might finish their careers here absolutely devastated. I’ve seen morale hit a low I didn’t think it could.”

    The New Journal took a tour around the building, which was valued at £49million in 2007, on Monday.

    With its rising chimneys and steep-pitched roof, it could easily be mistaken for another row of terraced cottages in Lancaster Grove. The decorative metalwork and crested guttering blend seamlessly into the surroundings, all part of a design specifically for firefighers by visionary council architects in 1912. The station opened on May 22, 1915. 

    Inside, a snooker table in the games room was covered, library books boxed, gym equipment lying cold and more than a dozen single-bed dormitories empty.

    Alerts come through on a ticker tape-style feeder in the call room triggering an alarm that sounds around the building. There is a wash room where apparatus and fire suits are cleaned. There is a four-storey training tower built for firefighters to practice using ladders and hoses on high buildings.

    Firefighters have repeatedly warned that “someone is going to die because of the cuts” and raised concerns about the response to the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead and other tall buildings.

    Mr Cashin said: “Fire has behaved the same since the dawn of time. If we turn up later, it’s going to get bigger – it’s as simple as that.”

    New showers have been fitted in some rooms just two years ago and the station was also recently repainted at a cost of £60,000. There is also a sitting tenant, a LFB staff member, who lives on the site. 

    But Mr Cashin said the public reaction had been disappointing, adding: “It never felt like we could really get out into the public what they were doing. It is scandalous. They have been slowly told that we are people who are just moaning. When it comes to politics they say ‘oh that’s nothing to do with me’. Stop watching The X Factor, start get involved in doing something else.”

    Proposals to change firefighters’ retirement age and cut pension plans have recently triggered a series of strikes by Fire Brigade Union.

    On Monday, firefighters were taking a break to play Xbox computer games when the alarm sounded. Within a blink they were ready assembled, down the pole and out the door, blue lights flashing. The call was to a false fire alarm in a student block and no one was hurt. 

    Labour’s community safety chief Cllr Abdul Hai said: “These cuts will lead to longer response times from the fire brigade and more importantly jeopardise the safety of Camden residents. Response times are critical to saving lives.”

    A protest will be held outside the fire station this morning at 9.30am and firefighters are preparing for a ceremonial style send-off.

    James Cleverley, who chairs the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, said that the cuts would mean changes to the service but there would be no compulsory redundancies. “The firefighters based at the stations closing will now transfer to other stations and continue the excellent work they do to prevent fires, which is vital in changing the behaviours that start fires in the first place.”

    He added that figures showed that the number of fires in London had fallen by 50 per cent in the last 10 years. 

    Comments

    Its going the same way as

    Its going the same way as everything else in this country,down the privatise route.Its all about money for the people who control everything,to make more money.Its not just about fighting fires,the Fire Service tackle 101 other jobs from car crashes to getting people out of stuck lifts,you cant put a price on that.
    This WILL at some point cost someone their life,but the sheeple are to stupid to realise this.Boris is happy with his parties and his bikes but what will happen when someone on a bike ends up under a bus and the The Fire Fighters are on another job,is Boris going to come and get them out.I think not.Bloody disgrace.

    It's a sad day for every Londoner and Uk resident.

    It is a sad day. I actually find it hard to belief that a country like ours, which has for years stood head and shoulders above the rest, leading the way for others, has a foolish lacky who thinks he's clever, firing the bullets for his rich friends who must be thinking "Well done Boris, you tool". They must be laughing at how easy it is. Their taking things away from us, and destroying our services one by one. Yes us the British tax payers without us even turning our heads from the box on the wall. Hypnotised by shite on tv, instead of caring for each other and our services. Until you need a fire engine or an ambulance or you have a family member in a care home, we just think, "well I'm ok Jack".
    It is heartbreaking that the foundations of our one remaining service that isn't already breaking the backs of its employees, the Fireservice is being man handled and torn to its bare bones, and at what cost?
    The cost that some man, woman or child will be at the mercy of fire and toxic gases, frozen with fear hiding in a corner or under a bed. Praying that soon me or one of my brothers and sisters in the fire brigade will soon be there to give everything we have, even our lives to get them out alive.
    It just saddens me that this is allowed to happen. We the people should have a voice. But sadly it seems in the UK this is no longer true.
    Something will give and it will be us that pay with our lives :-(

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