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Protests grow over London fire station cuts after Dorrington Point tower block blaze

Smoke billows from Dorrington Point [picture: Kim Rennie] Smoke billows from Dorrington Point [picture: Kim Rennie]

Monday, July 15, 2013
12:24 PM

The dramatic blaze in the east London tower block in which a baby and two people needed medical treatment comes amid a wave of protest at the threat to close two fire-stations in the area.

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Emergency crews from Bow and Silvertown were among the first to arrive at the 12-storey Dorrington Point in Bromley-by-Bow where fire broke out on the fifth and sixth floors yesterday afternoon.

But both are on a list of 10 London fire stations facing the axe, with reduction in emergency cover elsewhere including Whitechapel.

Some 200 tenants were evacuated from the block on the Bow Bridge Estate as 80 firefighters arrived from Bow, Silvertown, Bethnal Green, Poplar, Millwall, Stratford, Shoreditch, Kingsland, Barking and as far as Plumstead and Peckham.

The baby was treated as a precaution, while a man in his 60s suffered cuts and bruises and an elderly woman was taken to hospital suffering from the effects of breathing smoke.

[Dramatic video—see related links, right]

The list of fire-station closures, which goes before the London Fire Authority on Thursday, has brought condemnation from leading politicians on the London Assembly as well as Tower Hamlets and Newham councils.

The Assembly’s John Biggs, who represents east London at City Hall, accused Mayor Boris Johnson of putting the public at risk by reducing emergency cover to pay for a 7p-a-week council tax reduction.

“People are united against closing Bow and Silvertown,” he said. “East London has been unfairly hit by the Mayor making cuts to emergency services to fund his penny-a-day council tax cut, even though the Fire Brigade has already saved £66 million.”

Critics say the East End will be hit worst, with its many high-rise tower blocks like Dorrington Point, while Tower Hamlets has also recorded the most emergencies of any London borough.

Cllr Marc Francis said: “The fire in Dorrington Point shows just how much risk Boris Johnson’s dangerous plans pose.

“The Fire Brigade has admitted response times to emergency calls in the area will almost double if these cuts go ahead.

“These few minutes’ delay could be the difference between being rescued or serious injury.”

Condemnation also came from Newham’s mayor Sir Robin Wales who fears longer response times to emergencies around Silvertown, Beckton and the whole Royal Docks.

Sir Robin said: “I’m disappointed by the decision to axe Silvertown and feel rightly let down. They have not listened to what residents are saying who are concerned for the safety of where they live and work.

“The closure is a public safety issue—any delay can cost lives.”

The campaigners are joining a London-wide protest on Thursday at The Monument, near London Bridge, followed by a march to the Fire Authority’s meeting at Union Street in Southwark at 2.30pm.

The cuts, including nearby Kingsland-Dalston and Clerkenwell fire-stations, face tough opposition on the Authority which already rejected the closures earlier this year.

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