Mayor of London Boris Johnson stands accused after fire brigade cuts claim first victim
Firefighters have accused the Mayor of London of having “blood on his hands” after a Woolwich pensioner lost his life following a fire in his home less than two months after his local fire station closed.
Maurice Cunliffe, 83, died in the early hours of Thursday 27 February, four days after being pulled semi-conscious from a fire in his flat at Riverview Heights on Eglinton Hill.
Paul Embery, the FBU’s regional secretary for London, said: “Boris Johnson’s closure of ten of London’s vital fire stations have now claimed their first victim, and the Mayor has blood on his hands.
“Firefighters who attended the scene performed magnificently, but when someone is trapped in a fire seconds count, and it’s reasonable to believe the extra time it took to travel a longer distance to reach Mr Cunliffe is likely to have been the difference between life and death.
“Firefighters have always said these cuts were reckless and would cost lives, but we take no satisfaction in being proved correct within seven weeks of the closures, and even at this stage we would urge Boris Johnson to re-open the stations for the benefit of the communities who desperately need them.”
Firefighters says that when they found him Mr Cunliffe was suffering from smoke inhalation but was still alive and semi-conscious, meaning his chances of being saved would have increased had he been pulled from the fire two or three minutes earlier.
Woolwich fire station closed along with nine others in the capital on 9 January in a package of controversial cuts ordered by Boris Johnson, meaning that Mr Cunliffe was forced to wait longer while crews from Eltham, Plumstead and East Greenwich fire stations battled to reach him.
Historical data shows that firefighters from Woolwich would have taken around six minutes to arrive at the scene, but on this occasion the first fire engine arrived eight minutes after mobilisation — more than ten minutes after the brigade received the first call to the incident.
Fire Brigades Union leaders say this 33% delay is likely to have had a significant impact on the chances of saving Mr Cunliffe.
In 1998, cuts supported by London’s current fire commissioner ensured the closure of Shooters Hill fire station less than a hundred yards from Mr Cunliffe’s front door.