Specialist fire unit to stay

Lewisham fire station is set to keep its specialist fire rescue unit, which went to the Paddington rail crash, under recommendations to make London safer.

Members of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) will make a final decision next month but proposals indicate only three of the existing five units in London, are set to move.

Carrying a wide range of specialist equipment, the units, currently based at Lewisham, Euston, Battersea, East Ham and Heston, deal with anything from road accidents to collapsed buildings.

A review, to make the brigade more responsive, through units being able to reach emergencies within 15 minutes, has also recommended two new units, bringing the fleet up to seven.

The units primarily cover the area they are assigned to but can deal with incidents anywhere in London and surrounding counties.

The Paddington crash, on October 5, 1999, used firefighters and rescue units from all over the capital, including Lewisham which replaced original crews at the scene.

The head-on collision between the Thames commuter train leaving Paddington and the Great Western Express service from Cheltenham left 31 dead and 414 injured.

Lewisham borough commander David Smith said: “The rescue unit carries 800 items of equipment, a lot of which is specialist. It’s good news for Lewisham and the surrounding areas it is staying.”

New equipment on the unit will also include a snake-eye camera used to examine injuries of trapped people, a line kit for high-level rescue and a inflatable dingy used for ice rescues.

LFEPA chairman Valerie Shawcross said: “These are important recommendations from officers, which will improve the safety prospects of Londoners.”

A final decision, also looking at four hose laying lorries and three operational resource centres which would store non front-line equipment, is expected on July 20