Ilford’s critical hours without fire cover

A FIREFIGHTER says “death is inevitable” after the revelation that the whole of Ilford has at times been covered by just one fire engine.

And Ron Waite, Fire Brigade Union spokesman and borough representative, said: “It’s not a case of if but when there is a major incident where someone may be killed or hurt.

“At the moment, across London we are averaging about 50 to 70 machines available, when we should have 165.”

For three hours on the evening of October 4, Ilford was covered by one fire engine based in Woodford, due to industrial action.

Firefighters are angry with new rules stating they can be given 90 days’ notice before being sacked. They refused to work out of goodwill, or “act up” into more senior posts to cover staff shortages, in a bid to make bosses listen.

Had there been more than one emergency that evening, units would have been drafted in from east London – increasing response times and therefore the chance of fatalities.

A firefighter who has worked at Ilford Fire Station, High Road, Ilford, for 24 years, and did not wish to be named, told the Recorder: “On Sunday evening and the early hours of Wednesday last week, for about three hours at a time, Ilford was reliant on one fire unit, which was not even based in the area.

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“Had there been more than one very serious incident, I am sure that, sadly, lives would have been lost.

“If this continues and we are not listened to, I am certain that death is inevitable.”

The union has balloted on whether they will go on strike, and the results will be announced 3pm today.

The union wants bosses to review the 90-day sacking notice so they can go back to “constructively” negotiating shift times.

The union has been taking part in “action short of a strike” since the three-month sacking notices came into force on August 11.

A fire brigade spokesman said: “We’d like to reassure people across Redbridge that we plan our fire cover to meet the needs of London as a whole.

“If, for any reason, staff or fire engines in a particular station are temporarily unavailable, we allocate resources from elsewhere to provide cover.”