Fire crews fight to save Leicester’s central station

SOS: Save our station, say Leicester's fire fighters.

SOS: Save our station, say Leicester’s fire fighters.

BY ALASTAIR ULKE

Fire fighters are asking students to help save the city’s busiest fire station.

Leicester’s central station – which covers De Montfort University campus – is in danger of being closed by cost-cutting.

Fire crews are now petitioning against the move and are asking for signatures from Leicester’s public.

Duncan Rees, Fire Brigade Representative for Central Station and a veteran of 17 years fighting fires, said: “Closing the central station would put lives at risk.”

Leicester city is supported by three fire stations, with the 90-year-old central station on Lancaster Road responding to the most incidents.

But under new proposals from Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, central station and another station in Kibworth will be closed by 2020, costing the city 11 fire engines and dozens of jobs.

The plans want to replace the lost engines with three fast response vehicles and have city incidents handled by a fire station in Wigston.

Standard fire engine crews will also be reduced from five to four.

Emergency response times will also be revised from five minutes from call-to-arrival to a 10-minute travel time maximum.

Mr Rees said: “You can’t make it from Wigston to the city centre in 10 minutes, even with the sirens blaring and the lights flashing, with or without traffic.

“Leicester will be losing three of its busiest fire engines in these cuts. They will be replaced with fast response vehicles, which are, compared to a fire engine, just two men with a bucket.”

Leicester’s students will also be affected by the cuts, with the central station covering both De Montfort University campus and the University of Leicester campus

The station also covers most of the city’s student accommodation, high-rise apartments and terraced housing.

Amie Chapman, De Montfort’s Student Union Vice President, said in a statement: “From a DMU perspective, by 2020, should Central Fire Station close as proposed…we would be compromised should a catastrophe occur on campus.

“This is not so far-fetched when you consider the Hawthorn Building flooded in 2012 and given the burst pipe close to campus in 2013; sometimes incidents just cannot be predicted or controlled.

“One call from a large university or college, stadium or hospital is a call for help from hundreds, maybe even thousands of people.”

Central station received a £4.6million renovation five years ago.

The cuts, under the proposed ‘integrated management plan’, aim to fill a £3million shortfall in the service’s budget.

Nick Rushton, who chairs the county’s combined fire authority, said: “We need to change from a fire service to a rescue service and we have got to balance the budget.

“You can’t have a medium-term financial strategy with a hole of two-and-a-half to three million in it at the end.”

Mr Rees stressed the danger posed to students by the cuts, saying: “It’s important to maintain fire safety in the city. We all make stupid mistakes and fires in high rise student flats, while not common, are a serious danger.

“Central station is the only station that makes fire plans to deal with incidents in high rise flats in the city. Without central station, tackling those incidents will be so much harder for fire crews.”

Fire crews will be in Leicester city centre every weekend and hope to gather 12,000 signatures. The petition will be passed to Mayor Peter Soulsby at a decisive meeting in February.

For more information on the proposal or to find a consultation meeting near you, visit http://www.leicestershire-fire.gov.uk/irmp.

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