THOUSANDS of Sunderland AFC and Crystal Palace supporters have backed the petition to save the city’s biggest fire station.
Campaigners pitched up at the Stadium of Light on Saturday ahead of SAFC’s Premier League clash against the London team, and fans of both sides added their names to the petition, which is rapidly gaining pace.
The drive to save Sunderland Central Fire Station has so far received more than 5,000 signatures and those fronting the campaign, started by the Echo and backed by Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott, are still hopeful that they can make Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority reconsider the decision to close the facility.
Sunderland Fire Brigade Union representative, Gordon Chalk, said it was good to see supporters, both home and away, coming together to add their names to the fight.
Black Cats fan Joan Hill, 54, who lives near the city centre fire station, which is one of the biggest in Tyne and Wear, said people will die if the facility closes.
“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “Where we live, there are flats and it only takes them a second to come out.
“I think they are pathetic trying to close it. They expect to close it and people are going to die.”
Nissan worker Alan Bilton, 45, of Peterlee, who was at the match to support SAFC, said: “I think it is a disgrace, the fire station should be kept open.
“Fire stations are one of the most important things, the same as police stations, so good luck to them.
“If it was my fire station, I would do the same.”
Irish Crystal Palace fans Gareth O’Neill, 50, and Darren Hennessy, 68, who now live in London, said it is important to keep all city centre fire stations open.
Darren said: “It is vitally important to keep the fire station open. For kids especially.”
Gareth added: “For the sake of the city and the people.”
Firefighter Eddie Harrison, of Farringdon Fire Station, took his family to Stadium Park ahead of the game to collect signatures. Wife Catherine, 44, and daughters Millie, 12, and Ella, nine, all collected signatures.
“We want to grab everyone’s attention,” said Catherine. “We want to gather support. It’s vital we keep a fire station in the city centre.
“It’s a scary thought, as a parent as well, that our nearest fire station will be moving to Farringdon or Fulwell.”
FBU representative Gordon, who has taken to the city’s streets numerous times since the launch of the Hold Fire campaign, added that the plan to pour £87million into developing the city centre gives fresh hope that the Fire Authority may reconsider closure of the station.
“With the announcement of the multimillion-pound development in Sunderland, it does make sense now for the Fire Authority to review its integrated risk management plan, and to consider not closing the city centre fire station,” he said.
“It will be protecting jobs and the people working to build the new bridge and the new multimillion-pound business park.”