SUNDERLAND city centre will be the scene of a rally tomorrow as part of a drive to protect firefighters’ jobs.
The Fire Brigades’ Union’s (FBU) Ring of Fire Tour comes to Wearside.
The event has been organised to boost the campaign to protect fire positions in the area.
Firefighter and FBU rep Gordon Chalk told the Echo: “This is part of a national campaign by the FBU which is touring different areas of the country to demonstrate against these cuts.
“It’s coming to Sunderland because at the minute Sunderland Central could shut in three years.”
The FBU say that Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service have axed 173 jobs in recent times - a total of 18 per cent of the brigade.
Sunderland Central Fire Station, in Millfield, faces an uncertain future after chiefs said it could be closed as part of multimillion-pound cuts.
The Echo’s Hold Fire campaign has so far generated more than 12,000 signatures opposing the closure of the Railway Row facility.
MP Julie Elliott, who is campaigning to keep the station open and will be speaking at tomorrow’s rally, said: “In Sunderland, we are all too aware of the dangerous impact the Tory-led government’s austerity agenda is having on fire service provision.
“Our city centre fire station is set to close in 2017 as a direct result of central government cuts.
“I welcome the FBU’s Ring of Fire tour to Sunderland and share their view that a lesser fire service will result in lower levels of public safety.
“This is not a risk we can afford to take.”
As part of the tour, live entertainment will begin in Market Square, next to The Bridges, from midday onwards.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack is also set to attend and give special thanks to former firefighter George Smith, who has collected thousands of petition signatures on his own.