FOOTBALL fans will get the chance to help save Sunderland Central Fire Station this weekend.
Volunteers will be outside the Stadium of Light collecting signatures before the Black Cats clash with Crystal Palace on Saturday.
The football club has given the group permission to come along with the Sunderland Echo’s Hold Fire petition which is demanding the station remains open in the face of multimillion pound cuts.
The collection has been organised by Julie Elliott, Sunderland Central’s MP, who has joined forces with the Echo for the campaign.
They will meet at the Bob Stokoe statue at 1.30pm.
Ms Elliott said: “When I have taken the petition to Sunderland city centre, the public support has been absolutely overwhelming.
“The decision to close the station is one which the people of Sunderland collectively oppose. More than 5,700 people have signed the petition and if you are not one of them, I would urge you to do so.”
Gary Hutchinson, chairman of the North East Chamber of Commerce and commercial director of SAFC, reinforced the importance of keeping the fire station open.
He said: “As chairman of NECC and a local resident, I must stress the message that this service is essential for the local community. The work that has been done by the fire services has been of exceptional standard and the proposal to close the city centre station will reduce the local fire service’s capacity to respond as quickly and effectively as necessary to safeguard life, property and business.”
There has been a fire station in Sunderland city centre since 1908 and the decision, by Tyne and Wear Fire Authority, to close the station has been met with anger.
Bosses at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWF&RS) argue the city centre can be adequately covered from outlying stations including Fulwell, Farringdon and Washington.