HUNDREDS of people turned out in force to show support for Wearside firefighters.
Supporters descended on Market Square, in the city centre, to back the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in its campaign to stop cuts to the fire service.
The awareness day was part of a national touring campaign, called Ring of Fire, which aims to highlight the effect of government cuts on the Fire Service.
Brigade secretary of the Tyne and Wear Branch of the FBU, Russ King, said the day was an important way to highlight the issues.
He said: “It’s about engagement and letting people of Tyne and Wear know what is happening.
“The day was specifically about the fire service.
“Since 2010, 39 stations and around 5,000 front-line firefighters have been lost.
“This is an ongoing programme of events up and down the country.”
MP Julie Elliott has backed an Echo campaign to keep Sunderland Central Fire Station, in Millfield.
Speaking at the event, she said: “There have been 25 per cent council cuts and a quarter of staff have gone from the council.
“So I was talking about the wider impact of public state cuts.
“If people haven’t got money in the public sector, then money can’t be spent in the private sector.
“Everything comes down to the government cuts.”
FBU general secretary, Matt Wrack, also attended the event, and spoke about the impact of cuts on a local and national scale.
He, along with MP Julie Elliott, presented campaigner George Smith with a gift for collecting 7,000 signatures on the Echo’s petition to keep Sunderland Central fire station open.
George, 66, of Pallion, said he was pleased to support the FBU.
“I’ve covered all of the streets of Sunderland collecting signatures and I’m going to keep going,” he said.
“I was asked to come down today and I wanted to get involved because it is a good event – someone has to take notice of what’s going on.”
He added: “What gets me most annoyed is that Tyne and Wear Fire Service want to close a fire station and build a new one.
“People don’t want their fire station closed because it is a community fire station.
“I can’t see any sense in it.”
FBU members in Sunderland have been campaigning to keep Sunderland Central Fire Station, in Railway Row, open since the beginning of the year.
The Echo’s Hold Fire campaign, which is ongoing, has so far generated more than 12,000 signatures.