FBU’s terrifying warning on 30th anniversary of King’s Cross fire
UNIONS have issued stark warnings about fire and safety funding cuts as they prepare to mark the 30th anniversary of the King’s Cross fire.
The fire, which killed 31 people and hospitalised more than 100, ripped through the Underground station on November 18 1987 before a fireball engulfed the ticket office.
Thirty engines and crews from 22 fire stations rushed to the inferno, which was sparked by a lit match on a wooden escalator.
A subsequent inquiry led to the resignation of senior London Underground (LU) bosses and the introduction of stricter fire safety regulations.
But recent damning statistics from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) have revealed the full scale of government cuts to London’s fire service which mean the service could not muster similar resources today.
Of the 22 stations that responded to the Kings Cross blaze, 13 fire engines have since been removed from service and six stations have closed entirely.
One of those was Clerkenwell station which saw tearful firefighters embrace as it was closed by former London mayor Boris Johnson in 2014 as part of an “efficiency savings” drive.
The union says more than 1,400 firefighter jobs have been axed and that this seriously hampers the capability of the London Fire Brigade (LFB) to respond to a similar tragedy.
It called for the government to stop risking lives by making cuts to fire and rescue services across the country, demanding additional cash in next week’s Budget.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack — a former London firefighter — highlighted the closures of Clerkenwell, Belsize, Westminster, Manchester Square, Kingsland and Silvertown fire stations, all of which sent fire engines to King’s Cross.
Fire crews having to travel from further afield would also delay the response to a similar disaster, he said.
Mr Wrack added: “It is obscene that we are having to highlight this extremely concerning depletion of emergency response resources in our capital in the very same year as the dreadful Grenfell Tower fire took more lives through fire in London than any since World War II.
“How many more lives have to be put at risk or even taken before the government will sit up and listen?”
LFB spokesman Tom George, who will be attending the memorial service, said: “The King’s Cross fire was a game changer for the Brigade and the UK fire service, just as the Grenfell tragedy will be 30 years from now.”
Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union general secretary Mick Cash said the fires at King’s Cross and Grenfell Tower both stand as “a reminder to everyone that safety and regulation must remain our watchwords regardless of what the bottom line says on a set of accounts.
“This weekend’s Kings Cross Fire commemoration event will reinforce in all of us the need to be ever vigilant in respect of the safest possible staffing, standards and legislation to avoid a repeat of this tragedy,” he added.
TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes warned against £3 million of cuts to LU and Transport for London’s health and safety budget.
He will meet London Mayor Sadiq Khan to ask him to pause the cuts and to conduct a safety audit of all of London’s stations.
“Without one, another preventable disaster like Kings Cross fire is just a matter of time,” he said.
The memorial service at King’s Cross Station will start at 11am and be attended by firefighters, transport workers and survivors of the tragedy.