Sunderland fire station closure ‘could cost lives’, claim campaigners

Tyne and Wear Fire Rescue Service Public Consultation Meeting in the Quayside Exchange Building, Sunderland, left to right; Gill Alcock, Development & Review Manager, John Baines, Assistant Chief Officer, John Hall, District Manager for Sunderland, and Kevin Hepple, Area Service Manager.
Tyne and Wear Fire Rescue Service Public Consultation Meeting in the Quayside Exchange Building, Sunderland, left to right; Gill Alcock, Development & Review Manager, John Baines, Assistant Chief Officer, John Hall, District Manager for Sunderland, and Kevin Hepple, Area Service Manager.
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CAMPAIGNERS have made an impassioned plea not to close a city fire station.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service announced last month that it needs to save more than £5million from its frontline budget.

The brigade said the cuts could mean that more than 130 staff could lose their jobs and Sunderland Central Fire Station, in Railway Row, Millfield, may close.

Five firefighters could also be reduced to four at stations with one appliance, which includes Fulwell and Rainton Bridge.

A public meeting on the issue last night at the Quayside Exchange, in High Street East, saw just under 30 people attend.

Many expressed worries that response times from crews would be slower and could cost lives.

“It is still our focus to have one of the fastest response times of any fire service in the UK,” said assistant chief fire officer John Baines.

“Without politicising things, there is a common view about austerity beyond 2017, regardless of which party is in power.”

However, Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU) official Pete Wilcox said: “The Fire Brigades’ Union will be providing a response, and we think these proposals are dangerous.

“There will be great risk to areas of the city and we won’t have a safer service.”

Gary Duncan, who is leading the Save Sunderland Central Fire Station campaign, said: “This decision isn’t a foregone conclusion.

“There are now more than 7,000 members on our Facebook page and we have to support the firefighters.

“It is for us to keep this fire station open.”

Councillor Iain Kay, whose ward Sunderland Central Fire Station is in, said: “There are 30,000 people who live in the footprint of the station and about 30 people here tonight.

“If you are concerned, talk to your friends and families about it and get them to fill in consultation forms. Irrespective of the firefighting, it’s a great facility which does a lot of community work and I for one do not want to lose it.”

The next public meeting on the proposals is at The Place, in Athenaeum Street, on Monday at 10am.

Those unable to attend next week can let Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service know their views, either by taking part in an online survey, emailing their comments to consultation@twfire.gov.uk, calling 444 1529 or by writing to: Freepost RLZH-ZZYU-LJUJ, Development and Review, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Barmston Mere, Nissan Way, Sunderland, SR5 3QY. The consultation ends on New Year’s Day.