Great-grandmother whose child died in a house fire fights to save Downham Fire Station for fourth time

Great-grandmother whose child died in a house fire fights to save Downham Fire Station for fourth time

Jean Vecci, 79, whose six-year-old daughter died in a house fire, has fought to save Downham fire station four times

Yvonne Vecci, 6, died in a house fire in 1971

Downham Fire Station, Reigate Road, which is threatened with closure after budget cuts

First published in News News Shopper: Photograph of the Author by , reporter

A CAMPAIGNING great-grandmother whose child died in a "horrific" house fire is determined to save Downham fire station - for the fourth time.

The base in Reigate Road is one of 17 in London earmarked for closure - including New Cross, Woolwich, Lee Green and Deptford - after £65m cuts were outlined by Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

Jean Vecci, 79, who lives 100 yards from the threatened Downham station, heard her six-year-old daughter Yvonne crying "daddy, daddy" after she became trapped in a burning bathroom in 1971.

The tragic accident at Mrs Vecci’s parents’ home in Peckham - where a sheet caught alight from an oil store - killed the girl and a neighbour’s child and left her passionate about fire safety.

The great-grandmother-of-seven has tirelessly battled to save Downham’s one-pump station - leading three victories with the last in 1992 - and is now faced with a fourth fight.

Mrs Vecci said: "I led the previous fights to save the fire station. "I lost my six-year-old daughter in a fire. I didn’t want anyone else to suffer what I did all those years ago.

"I could hear her calling ‘daddy daddy’.

"It was horrific."

The mental health volunteer fears the loss of the Downham site - which recently had a revamp with a solar panel installed - in a densely populated area.

She said: "I think all local fire stations are essential. It is a known fact that smoke kills in seconds and seconds saves lives.

"There are an awful lot of children who live in this area and older people and they will die quicker than most people from smoke inhalation. "When we were fighting there were 2,000 homes in Downham but they have built many more."

A petition against the proposed closure has already collected several thousand signatures and can be found in Downham shops or online at ipetitions.com/petition/save-downham-fire-station/

Liberal Democrat councillor Cllr Julia Flecther led a motion to oppose any cuts to Lewisham fire stations at a full council meeting on November 28 which was unanimously agreed.

The ward councillor for Downham said: "The closure of Downham Fire Station would be completely unacceptable to local residents.

"This station provides an essential service, which is greatly valued by local residents. These reckless cuts are a great disservice to the bravery of our local fire-fighters."

She added: “We will resist any attempt to close our local fire stations.”

“Lee Green, Deptford, Downham and New Cross fire stations provide critical cover for local residents and I am extremely concerned about the impact any cut could have on emergency response times.

“If these proposals go ahead, Lewisham could potentially lose up to three of these fire stations that serve our community."

She went on to urge the Mayor to rethink the proposals which are expected to be decided on in January next year.

Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade Ron Dobson  said: “Like virtually every other public service, the Brigade needs to make savings, but the full extent of those savings is not yet known and therefore there are currently no proposals being made.

"Having spent 33 years as a firefighter serving the capital during events including the bombing of Canary Wharf, the 7 July terrorist attacks and last summer’s civil disturbances, I will not propose anything that would put the lives of Londoners, or firefighters, at risk.

“It is important that the debate about the future of London’s fire service is based upon facts about the actual amount of savings the Brigade needs to make and the proposals that will be published once this is known.

"On going reports of individual stations closing are nothing but unfounded, sensationalised scare stories.”
 

Fire statistics

Downham Fire Station covers Downham, Whitefoot, Grove Park, Bellingham as well as parts of Bromley.

Downham firefighters attend over 836 incidents every year including 322 fires; 268 false alarms and 246 special services.

Last year there were 874 fires in Lewisham and the fire service was called to more than 3,820 incidents.

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