A RETIRED firefighter is turning up the heat on an Echo campaign to save Sunderland fire station after personally collecting more than 4,000 signatures.
George Smith, 66, has devoted his days to walking the city streets, urging residents to sign a petition against the station’s planned closure.
So far, he has covered Chester Road, Hylton Road, most of Pallion, parts of Pennywell and Villette Road in Hendon – and he hasn’t finished yet.
Earlier this year, the Echo reported how George had collected more than 1,000 names, but that has now increased to a staggering 4,000.
In total, more than 13,000 people have put their names to the Echo’s Hold Fire petition.
George, of Pallion, said: “The feedback I am getting is unanimous – nobody wants to see this station close.
“Most people just ask ‘why?’ They don’t understand the reasons behind closing the station, and neither do I.”
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWF&RS) announced plans earlier this year to shut the station in a bid to make multimillion-pound cuts.
George was in the Auxiliary Fire Service from the age of 18, until it was disbanded in 1968.
He said: “When I saw Julie Elliott MP was supporting the petition, I knew I had to get involved to fight for our station. When you think about what is near the station – the university, Sunderland Royal Hospital and so many houses, it really makes you wonder why they would close it.”
Bosses at TWF&RS say they are confident response times to major incidents in the city centre would not be affected by the closure.
However, George disagrees. He said: “I know the brigade says they could reach the city centre in six minutes from outlying stations, but have you ever tried to get over the bridge in six minutes at rush hour?”